The Olyroos may have reached Tokyo 2020 with all the finesse of Eric the Eel, but there’s no doubt their qualification is a huge achievement and a major boost for Australian football.
It’s no secret that when Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak retired they left a goalscoring void in the Socceroos squad.
Before Graham Arnold took over as head coach after last year’s World Cup the veteran duo had contributed 42 per cent of the goals (38 of 90) Australia had scored in the previous four years.
Arnold’s squad for this month’s Asian Cup didn’t have a single player with 10 or more goals to their name in national team colours.
Step forward Awer Mabil.
The 23-year-old winger has made seven appearances for Australia since debuting in Arnold’s first game in charge against Kuwait last October.
In that time Mabil has scored four goals, including a cracking left-foot curler against Syria in Tuesday’s dramatic 3-2 clash in Al Ain.
His international tally is only bettered by five players in Arnold’s squad – Robbie Kruse (5), Mat Leckie (8), Massimo Luongo (6), Mark Milligan (6) and Tom Rogic (9) – with all of those players having over 40 caps.
It’s a continuation of some fine goalscoring form at club level by Mabil, who has notched five goals in 16 matches this season for Danish Superliga champions FC Midtjylland.
“It’s easy to score goals when the team is behind you,” Mabil said.
“For the front boys, it’s something that’s amazing.
“It’s really clicking for our team and we’ve got a lot to give and to learn.”
Mabil will again be leading Australia’s charge when they face either Japan or Uzbekistan next Monday in Al Ain for a spot in the Asian Cup quarter-finals.
The South Sudanese refugee says he has no fear who the Socceroos meet – even if it is four-time Asian champions Japan.
“We’re all clicking up in the front and we’re all having fun,” Mabil says.
“It’s exciting for Australian fans … I’m really loving being in this environment.”