By David Shilovsky
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has today announced his 31-man squad for the two upcoming international friendlies against New Zealand.
These two games, to be played at Suncorp Stadium and Eden Park in Auckland, will be Arnold’s final look at his side before their opening group game of the 2022 World Cup against reigning champions France on November 23.
“This camp provides us with a unique opportunity to bring in some new players who can push for selection ahead of the World Cup,” Arnold said at today’s press conference in Sydney.
Amongst a raft of familiar names, notable new additions to the squad include Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings, who have both earned their inaugural national team call-up.
“I was over the moon, just really excited,” said Cummings.
“It’s a proud moment for me and my family. It’s what every Australian lad dreams of.”
The Mariners No.9 is eligible for the Socceroos through his Australian mother. He has earned his spot after a promising campaign in Gosford, netting 10 times and laying on six assists in just 20 appearances for his new club.
Kuol, despite not even having started an A-League Men fixture, has been explosive from the bench for Nick Montgomery and has attracted interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
“Obviously, my family is buzzing for me,” said a proud Kuol.
“I want to inspire young children to dream big – the sky’s the limit.
“I rang (brother Alou Kuol) and I’m just like, ‘What happened, mate?'”
The national team boss revealed there will be two quite different starting teams for the two fixtures.
“I’m planning to use pretty much two different starting line-ups for these two games,” Arnold explained.
“That’s why I’ve gone with the 31-man squad – to get a look at all the players.
“The incentive couldn’t be bigger (for those pushing for a spot).”
Goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak, who in May last year announced his retirement from international football, is also back in the fold after conversations with Arnold.
“You could tell that he was missing it enormously – he was sending me texts after games (whether we won or lost). You could tell that his passion was still there,” said the manager.
“We need every goalkeeper we can get who’s in form and it was an easy conversation to get him back into camp.”
Midfielder Cameron Devlin is another one who’s been selected for the first time.
“Cameron brings something different to the midfield,” Arnold explained on why the Hearts man earned his place.
“He’s that No.6, defensive midfielder, as opposed to an Aaron Mooy who’s great at distributing.”
Answering a question from the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Vince Rugari about Tom Rogic, who was absent from the playoff win, Arnold played a straight bat.
“I don’t hold any grudges,” said Arnold, referring to Rogic’s conspicuous absence from the Peru playoff.
“It’s a great move for Tommy (the recent move to West Bromwich Albion).
“The most important thing for Tommy is to be playing regularly and showing what he can do.”
The inclusion of developing star Kuol, as well as Cummings’ first call-up grab the headlines, but the squad hasn’t changed drastically from the one that beat Peru in a dramatic penalty shootout in the Inter-Confederation Playoff back to secure Australia’s place in the World Cup back in June.
With just over two months until their World Cup campaign gets underway, they will mostly be relying on the chemistry formed over the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Australia take on New Zealand next Thursday, September 22 in Brisbane, before the trans-Tasman foes do it all again on Sunday, September 25 in Auckland.
The Socceroos’ World Cup campaign begins with an enormous task up against France. African side Tunisia are their next opponents, then they will round out the group stage against Denmark.