Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold has announced a new-look 31-player squad to take on New Zealand in a two-game friendly series to mark the 100th anniversary of the Australian men’s national team.
- Seven uncapped players were named in the Socceroos’ 31-man squad
- Goalkeeper Mitch Langerak has been called out of international retirement
- The friendlies are being played at Lang Park on September 22 and Eden Park on September 25
Arnold has made a number of changes to the squad who defeated Peru in June’s World Cup qualifying play-off, including calling up seven uncapped players to take on the All Whites in Brisbane on Thursday September 22 and Auckland on Sunday September 25.
Seventeen-year-old Central Coast Mariners sensation Garang Kuol has earned his maiden call-up to the senior side after impressing in the A-League Men’s competition, where he is yet to start his first full match, as well as in the A-League All Stars match against Barcelona in May, where his “unbelievable” cameo performance earned praise from opposition head coach Xavi.
Kuol is joined by Mariners team-mate Jason Cummings, who represented Scotland at senior level but has spoken publicly of his desire to switch allegiances to Australia, which he is eligible to represent through his mother.
The five other uncapped players Arnold has called upon include St Mirren players Keanu Baccus and Ryan Strain, Incheon United defender Harrison Delbridge, Heart of Midlothian midfielder Cameron Devlin and Olyroos captain Tyrese Francois.
In addition, Arnold has called up a number of players with 10 caps or fewer including Nathaniel Atkinson (3), Thomas Deng (1), Denis Genreau (3), Fran Karacic (9), Joel King (2), Riley McGree (9), Connor Metcalfe (3), Andrew Redmayne (3), and Marco Tilio (3).
Mitch Langerak (8), who has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the J-League for Nagoya Grampus over the past year, has also been selected after temporarily retiring from international football in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a squad chosen, in part, with an eye to the future as the Socceroos celebrate their centenary against the first national side they ever played, in June 1922.
“I truly believe in Australian kids,” Arnold told media on Wednesday.
“As you can see by the extended squad — 31 players — I’m using that as an opportunity to give players a chance to show us, as coaching staff, what they can bring.
“Since I took this job, and with the Olympic [under-23] team as well, it’s all about developing and giving youngsters an opportunity, and you see a big number of youngsters in the squad.
“I went, two weeks ago, down to Canberra to watch Garang play at a talent ID camp for the under-20s and he showed great quality and great talent. I truly believe that our kids have got it here in Australia. It’s just them getting an opportunity.”
Filling out the extended squad are several more senior players in captain Mat Ryan, Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Jackson Irvine, Adam Taggart, Mat Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Aaron Mooy, Trent Sainsbury, Mitch Duke, and Bailey Wright.
There is, however, no room for recent West Bromwich Albion signing Tom Rogic, who mysteriously withdrew from selection during the Socceroos’ qualifying play-off games but has since reportedly reached out to Arnold to reaffirm his desire to return to the national team.
Others missing from the play-off squad include Melbourne Victory players Nicholas D’Agostino and Jason Davidson, Blackpool’s Kenny Dougall, Adelaide United striker Craig Goodwin, injured Hearts defender Kye Rowles, Norway-based Gianni Stensness, and veteran goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.
Arnold confirmed he will field two largely different line-ups across the two games, with priority potentially given to Europe-based players in the first friendly in Brisbane so they can return to their clubs as soon as possible.
For Kuol, who turns 18 on Thursday, his call-up has come far sooner than he expected — and before his older brother Alou — but the youngster is taking it in his stride.
“At this level, being an athlete, mentality is key,” he said.
“Regardless of age, if you go in all guns blazing and wanting to prove yourself … you can achieve whatever you want.
“My family is buzzing. It’s good to see me and a couple my brothers starting to come through and perform. They’ve done everything for us, so I just want to make them proud.
“I rang [Alou] and was like, ‘What happened mate?’
“Nah, he was happy for me. Hopefully he gets to focus at [German Bundesliga side] Stuttgart. I just want to focus on what I’m doing.”
This is the last time that the Socceroos will appear on home soil before departing for the World Cup in Qatar, with the final 26-player squad announced on November 14.
Socceroos squad: Nathaniel Atkinson, Keanu Baccus*, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Jason Cummings*, Harrison Delbridge*, Milos Degenek, Thomas Deng, Cameron Devlin*, Mitchell Duke, Tyrese Francois*, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Fran Karacic, Joel King, Garang Kuol*, Mitch Langerak (GK), Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe, Aaron Mooy, Andrew Redmayne (GK), Mathew Ryan (GK, Capt), Trent Sainsbury, Ryan Strain*, Adam Taggart, Marco Tilio, Bailey Wright