SYDNEY, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Adelaide teenager Riley McGree is the surprise selection in Australia's 23-man World Cup squad for the second phase of their qualifying matches later this month.
McGree, 18, made the cut on Tuesday when Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou announced his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Iraq on March 23 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 28.
The Socceroos will take a relatively experienced squad into both crucial games, as they aim to get back into the automatic top-two qualifying slots in their qualifying group.
McGree was one of five uncapped players named when Postecoglou reduced the squad from 30 players to 23, with Mustafa Amini and James Jeggo also recognized for impressive domestic form in Europe.
The teenager, who has played 15 games across all competitions, is still considered a long-shot to break into the strong Socceroos midfield with Aaron Mooy, Mile Jedinak and Massimo Luongo almost certain to feature around the center of the park.
But after McGree joked that he believed the first squad announcement was "a prank," Postecoglou ensured on Tuesday that his selection is warranted.
"He'll bring some great enthusiasm to the camp and he's rapt to be involved; bringing an 18-year-old into the squad will give everyone a reality check and keep them on their toes," Postecoglou said in a media conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
McGree is one of only six players selected from the A-League, with stalwart striker Tim Cahill picked alongside Rhyan Grant and Daniel Vukovic, both given the nod after Sydney FC's near perfect season in the domestic competition.
Meanwhile James Troisi headlines the list of players returning after varying periods out of the squad, having regained form in a strong season for Melbourne Victory.
"James at his best can contribute at national level but he just hasn't been able to do it at club level for a while," Postecoglou said on Tuesday.
"His last 10 games have been excellent but national football is a different beast so we'll be looking for a real contribution."
The Socceroos will play Iraq at a neutral venue in Tehran, assembling together on Sunday ahead of Thursday's clash.
However, Postecoglou is more concerned about the match against the UAE, with continued concerns over the state of the pitch being prepared at Sydney's Football Stadium.
"I've banged on about it since I've started but it's because some don't realize the importance of making home conditions that suit our own side," he explained.
"If a cricket pitch was prepared here that didn't suit the side, even the Prime Minister would have something to say, but maybe our national soccer side isn't that important."