Socceroos: Ajdin Hrustic returns to first-team football

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Forgotten Socceroo Ajdin Hrustic has finally returned to first-team football in a good sign for Australia ahead of next month’s two World Cup qualifying matches against Lebanon.

A member of the Socceroos’ 2022 World Cup squad, playmaker Hrustic has missed Australia’s past 11 matches due mainly to his lack of football with Italian top-flight outfit Hellas Verona.

Hrustic’s creativity was desperately missed by the Socceroos at the just completed Asian Cup, where the Australians were knocked out in the quarter-finals by South Korea.

However, the 27-year-old Dandenong product took the first step towards a long-awaited recall to the national team this month by signing with Dutch club Heracles until the end of the season.

Hrustic didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity at his new club, starting and playing for 81 minutes in Heracles’ 3-2 weekend home win over Vitesse.

It was Hrustic’s first top-flight club appearance since January last year.

“It (Heracles) is a very warm club, it’s a very caring club, so I think it’s exactly what I need in this moment in my career,” Hrustic said.

“I want to enjoy every minute I get.”

It was also a good weekend for Belgium-based Socceroos midfielder Aiden O’Neill, who scored his first goal for Standard Liege in Les Rouches’ 1-0 home win Oud-Heverlee Leuven.

O’Neill, who was sent off in the Socceroos’ Asian Cup quarter-final loss, let fly from outside Oud-Heverlee Leuven’s penalty area with a spectacular strike that flew into the top corner of the net.

Fellow Socceroos Sam Silvera and Martin Boyle also scored on weekend.

Silvera found the back of the net after coming on as a substitute for Middlesbrough in the English Championship club’s 2-1 loss to Bristol City.

Boyle was on target for Hibernian in a 3-1 Scottish Cup fifth-round win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

The Socceroos host Lebanon in Sydney on March 21 before the teams meet again five days later at a yet-to-be determined venue.

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