Brisbane Roar captain Matt McKay says he is enjoying his football "more than ever" as he prepares to win his 56th cap for Australia.
The 32-year-old midfielder has praised Socceroos Head Coach Ange Postecoglou for continuing to challenge him to raise his game to new levels.
McKay was named today in Postecoglou's 23-player squad that will take the first step in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification in an away match against Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek – a tiny city nestled among glacial mountains in central Asia, about 800km west of China's western border.
Postecoglou called this group of players the “core of the squad that will take us through to the next World Cup”.
“This is the start of the next chapter in our journey and we are all excited about what lies ahead over the next two years,” Postecoglou said.
McKay said he was delighted to be among those first chosen to help steer Australia to the next World Cup (in Russia).
"I love playing for the national team," McKay said.
"We have been together now for the (2014) World Cup and (2015) Asian Cup, so keeping that core is great for the side going forward. I am delighted to be part of it again.
"I am enjoying my football more than ever. Ange has done that.
"He knows me and the players that we've got and how they each can help the team."
McKay is the third-most experienced player in the squad in terms of caps – behind Tim Cahill (82) and Mile Jedinak (58) – and said competing for a starting berth against the new generation of Socceroos Postecoglou is nurturing was helping to keep him in prime form.
"The younger players that have come in have done a really good job," McKay said.
"No one is guaranteed a spot and everyone is trying to impress so they are there for every qualification game . . . and that includes me."
Postecoglou today named a full-strength squad to face Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek on 16 June. The squad includes no uncapped players and 19 members of the AFC Asian Cup winning team.
Cahill, Matthew Spiranovic and Eugene Galekovic return to the squad after missing the recent matches against Germany and FYR Macedonia with Aaron Mooy, Adam Federici and the Roar's Luke DeVere missing out.
DeVere made his national team debut against the Germans in March but is just returning from a quad tear and was no chance of being considered for the latest Socceroos squad.
"I've just started back training so now it is about concentrating on what we are doing here at the Roar . . . then regrouping in the off-season and coming back and having a full preseason under my belt,'' DeVere said.
"Then it will be about putting in good performances and getting consistency back for the Roar. If you are doing that you are always putting yourself in the frame (for a Socceroos call-up)."
McKay will play in the Roar's LFP World Challenge game against Spain's Villarreal at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, 3 June (kick off 7pm) then will go into camp in Dubai with the Socceroos.
Postecoglou said the camp would prepare the Socceroos for what logistically shapes as one of Australia's most challenging World Cup qualification matches.
“No Australian football team has ever been to Kyrgyzstan so we have done a lot of research, including a reconnaissance trip to Bishkek, to make sure we are well prepared for what will not be an easy task,” Postecoglou said.
“We go to Bishkek with the utmost respect for Kyrgyzstan and we know that we will have to be at our best to get off to a winning start.”
Kyrgyzstan are ranked 153rd on the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings. The Socceroos are 64th.
Match details: Kyrgyzstan v Australia; Dolen Omurzakov Stadium, Bishkek (Tuesday, 16 June, 2015. Kick off: 9pm – 1am, 17 June AEST). Broadcast exclusively LIVE on FOX SPORTS 4 (channel 505) and on a one-hour delay on SBS.
Socceroos squad (player; club, caps/goals): Aziz Behich, Bursaspor, Turkey, 10 (2); Oliver Bozanic, FC Luzern, Switzerland, 7 (0); Nathan Burns, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand, 12 (0); Tim Cahill, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC, China, 82 (39); Jason Davidson, West Bromwich Albion FC, England, 18 (1); Tarek Elrich, Adelaide United, Australia, 1 (0); Ivan Franjic, unattached, 19 (0); Eugene Galekovic, Adelaide United, Australia, 8 (0); Chris Ikonomidis, SS Lazio, Italy, 1 (0); Mile Jedinak, Crystal Palace FC, England, 58 (8); Tomi Juric, Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Australia, 12 (2); Mitchell Langerak (gk), BV Borussia 09, Dortmund, Germany, 6 (0); Mathew Leckie, FC Ingolstadt 04, Germany, 24 (1); Massimo Luongo, Swindon Town FC, England, 12 (2); Matt McKay, Brisbane Roar FC, Australia, 55 (2); Mark Milligan, Melbourne Victory FC, Australia 39 (3); Tommy Oar, FC Utrecht, Netherlands, 22 (1); Mat Ryan (gk), Club Brugge KV, Belgium, 20 (0); Trent Sainsbury, PEC. Zwolle, Netherlands, 11 (1); Matthew Spiranovic, Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Australia, 26 (0); James Troisi, SV Zulte Waregem, Belgium, 23 (4); Alex Wilkinson, Jeonbuk Hyundai FC, Korea Republic, 14 (0); Bailey Wright, Preston North End FC, England, 3 (1).