Australia dealt World Cup blow as Martin Boyle withdraws through injury

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Australia have been dealt a blow days from their opening game at the World Cup with winger Martin Boyle withdrawing from the squad after being unable to overcome a knee injury.

Boyle, 29, had been in a race against time to prove his fitness after injuring his knee while playing for Scottish Premier League side Hibernian on Oct. 29 but after failing a fitness test on Saturday evening, he will be replaced by Melbourne City winger Marco Tilio in the Socceroos squad.

"We had to give him every last minute and every last chance to try and get fit, especially because of the sacrifices and everything he's done through the whole campaign," Australia head coach Graham Arnold said.

"But the medical staff have done everything they possibly can. Yesterday was pretty much the last chance and it didn't come through well. So he's out.

"[Tilio has] integrated really well. I called him to tell him he wasn't part of the 26 but at the same time, he was on standby. Melbourne City has been fantastic, releasing him to let him come across and train.

"But Martin's in great spirits, he's going to stay on here and be part of it still and he brings such great energy to the camp and with the players. It's devastating news for Martin but for Marco and the rest of the players, it's all about performance now."

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The news, however, is more promising for Ajdin Hrustic and Harry Souttar, who have also been in a race against time to prove their fitness ahead of Australia's clash against France on Tuesday.

While Hrustic won't start against Les Bleus, Arnold confirmed he will be able to play a role off the bench and that the Hellas Verona attacker will be available to start their subsequent game against Tunisia. Souttar, meanwhile, was described as looking "excellent" in training.

"Everyone else is ready for selection for the first game," Arnold said. "The training sessions, we've been working a lot on 11 v 11; getting the rhythm right and communication connection right."

Born in Scotland but eligible to represent Australia thanks to an Australian-born father, bringing Boyle into the national setup was one of the first moves that Arnold made upon becoming the Socceroos coach and the attacker has since become a vital figure to the side. On a personal level, his inability to recover in time for the World Cup represents a particularly harsh blow given he missed the 2019 Asian Cup after knee surgery.

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"That's probably the hardest thing, the devastating thing," Arnold said. "Boyle has been so important right through this whole campaign, he's been probably one of our best players right through the whole campaign.

"But at the end of the day, we can't do anything about it. Now, it's about getting the rest of the players ready, and training sessions have been fantastic.

"The energy has been great and now the focus is the most important thing."