Doubts Over Socceroo Atkinson’s World Cup Campaign

Doubts Over Socceroo Atkinson's World Cup Campaign
Doubts Over Socceroo Atkinson's World Cup Campaign

New injury concerns have arisen for Socceroos full-back Nathaniel Atkinson as he limped off the field in a medical boot and crutches during a UEFA Europa Conference League match. This comes with less than a month till the FIFA World Cup 2022 kicks off.

While playing for Hearts against Fiorentina in Florence, 23-year-old Atkinson abruptly grabbed his left foot in pain despite no incident or collision with an opponent. Even though Atkinson had returned to the field after the concession, he was taken off again shortly thereafter.

Fiorentina came out on top in the end, winning 5-1 on Friday as the Australian defender and former Melbourne City star staggered off the field in the 16th minute. Graham Arnold, the head coach of the Australian national soccer team, is seriously concerned about Atkinson’s injury and the length of time he may be out of action.

Arnold and his medical staff are waiting to hear about the extent of the damage suffered by the international player.

On November 8, the Socceroos’ head coach is set to reveal his final roster of 26 players for Qatar 2022 after submitting a list of 55 players to FIFA. Atkinson has expressed optimism that he will be able to make the cut, aiming to fully recuperate in time for the World Cup.

Although he admitted his recent performances were not “up to standard,” which affected his confidence levels off the pitch, Atkinson has revealed how he is “having long chats with the assistant coaches” to stay in a “positive mindset” for the FIFA World Cup that kicks off in November.

Atkinson, a local Tasmanian born on June 13, 1999, played youth soccer for Riverside Olympic before moving on to Football Tasmania’s NTC program. After impressing during a trial with Melbourne City in 2016, the promising young player signed with the club’s academy. From 2016–2017, he was a part of the Melbourne City NPL squad, which competed in Victoria’s NPL.

Atkinson’s continued excellence earned him a berth on Melbourne City’s first team. This was followed by the young footballer joining the Australian national under-20 team’s training camp in January 2017. Atkinson got an international break at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and his exceptional performance resulted in his selection for the senior Australia squad for the World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

The most anticipated event in football, the FIFA World Cup 2022, begins on November 20 in Qatar and runs through December 18. The Socceroos will play a series of Group D matches at the magnificent Al Wakrah Sports Complex, starting with a showdown with defending champions France on November 23.

Australia takes on Tunisia on November 26 and Denmark on November 31. Despite Australia’s triumph against Peru in the intercontinental playoffs, the Socceroos still emerged as one of the least favourites among FIFA World Cup betting sites to make it out of Group D.

Football fans in Australia, however, are on the edge of their seats as the nation hopes to prove everybody wrong, despite the injuries suffered by key players, including Nathaniel Atkinson.

Atkinson, on the other hand, hopes his recent goal for Hearts against Kilmarnock and his proven track record will earn him a position on Graham Arnold’s squad of elite players as they prepare to head to Qatar in the coming weeks – that is, if he recovers on time.

The right-back has claimed that although the start of the season wasn’t what he expected, he is working on rebuilding his confidence, and the approaching World Cup is “just that extra bit of motivation” he needs to keep his positive attitude intact.

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