Kuol, Langerak headline Socceroos squad full of pre-World Cup surprises

Graham Arnold has signalled his intent to freshen up the Socceroos’ ranks by naming a host of fresh faces in his squad for their final friendlies before the World Cup in Qatar – including in-demand teenager Garang Kuol.

The emerging Central Coast Mariners star is the headline inclusion in Arnold’s 31-man squad for Australia’s two-match stand against New Zealand, which features more than enough first-time call-ups and shock selections to keep the team’s incumbents on their toes.

Kuol, who sources tell the Herald is close to signing for English Premier League side Newcastle United amid interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs, turns 18 on Thursday.

While he is still yet to start an A-League fixture, his irresistible form off the bench for the Mariners, the A-League All Stars (in an off-season friendly against Barcelona) and the Young Socceroos in a recent talent ID match has convinced Arnold to bring into camp a player widely regarded as one of Australia’s most exciting prospects in many years. He is rated among the world’s top 250 young players, according to the CIES Football Observatory.

Including a player of such raw talent at a World Cup is not unprecedented for Australia, after Daniel Arzani was picked for Russia 2018 off the back of limited minutes in the A-League for Melbourne City, and then came off the bench three times in that tournament.

Kuol’s Central Coast strike partner, Scottish-born forward Jason Cummings, is also in the mix, while Arnold has pulled off another surprise in convincing Japan-based goalkeeper Mitch Langerak to come out of international retirement for next Thursday’s meeting with the All Whites in Brisbane. A rematch follows at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 25.

Garang Kuol holds off Barcelona’s Adama Traore in May’s friendly in Sydney.Credit:Getty

Arguably Australia’s most in-form custodian over the last few years, Langerak removed himself from Socceroos consideration due to Japan’s onerous coronavirus restrictions and the impact of repeated trips outside the country on his young family.

As recently as July, the Nagoya Grampus gloveman told the Herald he wouldn’t reverse his decision, but Arnold has worked to bring him back into the national set-up in a move that will pose a strong challenge to skipper Mat Ryan, who left Real Soceidad for Copenhagen in search of club minutes in the lead-up to Qatar.

“I am humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to represent the Socceroos again,” Langerak said.

“It’s been a difficult few years for all of us. When I had made the decision to retire, we were in the middle of strict lockdowns in Japan and at the time, I was facing the prospect of spending months away from my wife and young children, so I had to make the hard call to step away from international football for my family.

Mitch Langerak waved goodbye to international football two years ago but has been tempted by a possible World Cup comeback.Credit:Getty

“I am grateful for another opportunity, it was tough watching the team from afar, and I was so happy for everyone when we qualified for the FIFA World Cup and I can’t wait to rejoin my teammates in Brisbane,” he said.

Scottish Premiership trio Cameron Devlin, Ryan Strain and Keanu Baccus have also earned selection and could make their Australian debuts in this international window, along with Fulham’s on-loan midfielder Tyrese Francois and ex-Melbourne City defender Harrison Delbridge, who is now at Korean side Incheon United, and helps provide depth at centre-back in the absence of injured Hearts recruit Kye Rowles.

There is no Tom Rogic, who has just ended the mystery over his footballing future by signing for West Brom, but he is believed to have made it clear to Socceroos representatives that he is eager to return to the national team.

Most of the players who were in Australia’s squad for their World Cup qualifying play-off win over Peru have been included, but Arnold will only be able to name 26 players for his squad for the tournament proper, which opens for the Socceroos with a clash against France in Al Wakrah, Qatar on November 23 (AEST).


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), Trent Sainsbury, Ryan Strain, Adam Taggart, Marco Tilio, Bailey Wright.

“I’m excited to see a number of young Australians gaining great experience across Europe and throughout Asia, and it is important we bring them into the national team environment to build on our depth and assess their capabilities at this level,” Arnold said.

“We have been closely monitoring our players since qualifying for the FIFA World Cup and are regularly speaking with them about this opportunity.

“I can’t wait to get back into camp to work with our experienced group of players and the next generation of emerging stars.”

“The incentive couldn’t be bigger, there’s a place at the FIFA World Cup at stake, and if you’re working hard and playing well, then there’s an opportunity for you to represent your country on the biggest stage.”

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport. Matchday 2 continues with Manchester City v Dortmund (Thursday 4.35am AEST).

Most Viewed in Sport

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article