Socceroos striker Adam Taggart hasn’t given up hope of landing a FIFA World Cup call-up for next month’s Kuwait World Cup hub - despite not playing a competitive match since October.
Newly arrived at J1 League high-fliers Cerezo Osaka - after a protracted wait to fulfill Japan’s COVID-19 protocols - Taggart, 27, underlined his importance to the national team with Australia’s winner against Jordan in their last qualifier 17 months ago.
But he’s now racing to clock to prove his match readiness for June’s Kuwait-based hub, where Group B leaders Australia face Nepal, the hosts, Taiwan and Jordan.
The ex-Suwon Bluewings forward has been out of quarantine for less than two weeks and is digging deep to get up to speed with his new teammates.
Though Arnold is planning to bring an extended squad to the Middle East, Taggart isn’t sure what’s going through the mind of Australia’s head coach.
“It’s hard to say (how things will pan out),” declared Taggart.
“I haven’t played a competitive game for a while but I’ve kept myself fit and I’m back training for my new club now.
“Whether I’m selected or not it’s one of those things where I’ll be as ready as I can be.
“It’s a matter of ripping in as hard as I can hear in Japan.
“The decisions, of course, are out of my hands but I’ll do everything I can to be up to speed as much as possible.”
Cerezo sit fifth on the ladder 12 games into the season, and Taggart knows that breaking through will be no mean feat.
“It’s been frustrating to miss the start of the season - but I’m really happy to finally be here,” he added.
“It’s a great club with a great staff and now I’m planning to ramp things up as quickly as possible.
“Realistically, it might take a little time to get there but I’m feeling fit and strong.
“The team’s doing well and there are lots of good players around which will help me.
“I’ve got all the tools to get me to where I need to be.”
Cerezo’s top scorer is the ageless Yoshito Okubo, 38, with five goals in 11 games.
“There are quality players up front and that’s what you want, good competition,” added Taggart.
“You don’t necessarily want to be at a club where you’re guaranteed to play every week. You need that healthy competition to keep pushing you up.”
No matter the extent of his national team involvement, Taggart sees Australia completing the job of reaching the final phase of qualifying for Qatar 2022.
“We’ve got ourselves in a good position - but there’s a lot of room to keep pushing even harder,” he added.
“I thought we were getting to a good place before international football was frozen for us.
“Everyone will be hungry and excited to get back into camp.
“There is competition upfront with the national team as well with Jamie Maclaren doing great things for Melbourne City, which is really good to see.
“He’s a good mate of mine - it’s all about the national team and working together because we all want the same thing.”