Football great Harry Kewell says losing star winger Martin Boyle will be a major setback to Australia’s hopes of making a splash at the World Cup.
- Football legend Harry Kewell says losing Martin Boyle will be a “huge blow” for Australia
- Boyle is still hopeful of proving his fitness ahead of next Wednesday’s World Cup opener against France
- Marco Tilio has been flown to Doha as cover and could be called into the squad up to 24 hours before the Socceroos’ first game
Boyle is yet to train with his team-mates as he rehabilitates a knee injury sustained at Scottish club Hibernian last month, opening the door for Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio to travel to Qatar as a back-up player.
World Cup teams are allowed to replace an injured or ill player up to 24 hours before their opening match. Australia kick off their campaign against holders France next Tuesday (6:00am Wednesday AEDT).
Boyle, who missed the 2019 Asian Cup through injury, is a key part of Australia’s attack and the 29-year-old has previously been told he is likely to be able to play if he pushes through the pain threshold.
But Tilio’s call suggests there is still considerable doubt that Boyle will be able to compete in the tournament, and if he does, he will likely be among his best.
“Big blow, big blow,” Kewell, who is Ange Postecoglou’s assistant at Scottish powerhouse Celtic, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Because he’s doing well there. He’s doing great for Hibs.
“Unfortunately it came at an awkward time for him again because it would have been a great moment for him because he played exceptionally well.
“He’s a good outlet for us. He’s got pace and determination and he’s one of those guys who just because it doesn’t work the first two or three times, he keeps going and that scares a lot of defenders as well.
“So it’s a big blow for us.”
Midfielder Cameron Devlin earlier backed Boyle to prove his fitness.
“He will be a big loss but it’s just a precaution because we have the first game in a week,” Devlin told reporters in Doha.
“But if he didn’t play, he would be a big loss.”
Tilio (21) has five caps but was one of the notable omissions from Graham Arnold’s 26-man squad.
The incredibly talented winger started the A-League Men’s season on City’s bench but has managed to win back his place ahead of Andrew Nabbout and has two goals and two assists to his name this season.
Mat Ryan, Ajdin Hrustic, Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles also arrived in Qatar with some doubts over their recovery from injury.