Maclaren to embrace biggest Socceroos test

Striker Jamie Maclaren is confident he can stamp his mark on Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign as he returns to the Socceroos fold for arguably the biggest game of his international career.

Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia at CommBank Stadium is the Socceroos’ first on home soil since October 2019, but it also marks Maclaren’s first cap since June.

Maclaren and Melbourne City teammates Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout return to the Socceroos fold after opting out of the past two international breaks due to the physical and mental rigours of completing a 14-day hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia.

“It was tough to not come to the last Socceroos games. It really, really upset me. It upset a few of us, obviously me, Andy and Lecks play for the same club,” Maclaren told reporters on Monday.

“So we’d talk daily about how much we missed it and dissect the game and talk about how exciting and how great it was to watch them play in Doha.

“When we saw the fixture come out that there was a game in New South Wales, we couldn’t wait.”

Australia sit second behind Saudi Arabia, who have won all four of their games, in Group B, making Thursday’s clash crucial to the Socceroos’ hopes of reaching Qatar.

“There’s many factors: the fact we haven’t played in two years at home with a special crowd in a fantastic stadium, that’s on the line, the fact Saudi have won four in four,” Maclaren said.

“We’re just pushing for ourselves and really worrying about what we can control.

“We know that the crowd is going to be a huge factor in our favour on Thursday night and us as players really need to capitalise on that.

“There’s many factors but it’s going to be a huge game and we expect to get the win and move on.”

A fringe player in Australia’s last qualifying campaign in 2017, including sitting on the bench for a win over Saudi Arabia in Adelaide, Maclaren shapes as a likely starter this time, especially given Adam Taggart is out injured.

The 28-year-old stressed his desire to make the No.9 his own was “as strong as ever”.

“I’m just hungrier. Every cap that you get, you can’t take it for granted,” he said.

“I believe every time you put on that jersey, it could be your last.

“Not saying it will be but I’ve taken that mentality the last couple of years.

“… We’ll entertain and we’ll look to score goals and whenever I’m called upon I’m ready to do a job and really work hard and work to score goals and put myself in the right areas.”