Two-time Socceroos striker Eli Babalj has taken a big step in his recovery from injury by tasting competitive action for the first time in more than six months.
Babalj started and played the first half of Jong AZ Alkmaar’s 1-0 loss to Jong Roda JC on Monday night, before being replaced at the break as planned.
The appearance marked the Australian’s first piece of competitive football since late August when he scored for Jong AZ in a 4-1 win.
Babalj had been on the fringes of the AZ first team before undergoing hernia and adductor surgery in September.
The Perth-raised 22-year-old suffered a setback in his recovery after the turn of the year, but took a big stride forward in playing on Monday night.
Babalj, who debuted for Australia against Korea in November 2012 and has two international goals to his name, could be an outsider for the World Cup squad.
The Socceroos appear short on options up front, prompting talk of potential call-ups for Newcastle Jets youngster Adam Taggart and veteran Harry Kewell.