Apostolos Stamatelopoulos has the longest and one of the hardest names to say correctly in the A-League - but fans are quickly getting used…
In just a few short hours, the Socceroos will take to the pitch for the second of two matches against Ecuador.
On show will be some of the best young Australian talent we have seen in decades and the need to officially cap one in particular, as soon as the moment arises, should be front and centre in Graham Arnold’s thinking.
Sport offers opportunity, it is the most enthralling thing about the games we play. Thousands of stories exist that tell tales of the unlikely hero, the teenage prodigy and the dream debut that absolutely no one could have predicted.
That unpredictability adds so much interest and intrigue for fans who throw every emotion into the support of the team they love.
Football does the above as well and as consistently as any other endeavour.
Those opportunities were abundant last Friday night as Australia took to the pitch against a quality opponent in Ecuador, and despite a little fortune in terms of some close calls that appeared to go the way of the home team, those granted the Socceroo opportunity took it with both hands.
With Tom Rogic yet to return to the national team set-up following his departure from Celtic last May, and Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Ajdin Hrustic all unavailable for the two games against Ecuador, Arnold selected a squad decidedly different to the ones we have become used to seeing over the last three years.
The already capped Connor Metcalfe and Keanu Baccus look to have won the trust and support of the manager, both looming as likely long-term options in the midfield, Jordan Bos’ form at Melbourne City has Socceroo fans (and Arnold) waxing lyrical about what he offers as a modern full-back, and young Adelaide United goalkeeper Joe Gauci has simply forced his way into the squad.
Bos’ teammate Aiden O’Neill had his first taste of international senior football against Ecuador in the opening match, Garang Kuol found the net for the first time as a Socceroo, and Adelaide sensation Nestory Irankunda is almost certain to take to the field tonight in what could be a prophetic moment.
Most notable was the stunning debut of third-generation Socceroo Alex Robertson, who looked right at home in the midfield.
Eligible for four separate nations, Robertson needs to be capped in an official international match ASAP, lest a stunning change of heart or an offer he simply cannot refuse from elsewhere steals away a player who should be a long-term Socceroo.
To his credit, Arnold picked the future and played it, with only Irankunda, Bos and Gauci missing out on the Friday action.
That situation will almost certainly be remedied tonight and – along with other relatively new members of the squad like Marco Tilio, Cameron Devlin, Metcalfe and Baccus – the team that hopefully qualifies for the 2026 World Cup in North America is staring us in the face.
It is unlikely, should Australia qualify, that Jason Cummings, Mitchell Duke, Martin Boyle, Mooy, Rogic, Leckie, Aziz Behich and Craig Goodwin would be members of that squad, with its make-up more likely to include the current crop of young stars with another three years of consistent and hard football under their belts.
In three years, Brandon Borrello could well be striking up top for the national side if his current ascension continues, Kuol, Riley McGree, Metcalfe, Robertson and Tilio may well form the midfield group, and Harry Souttar will hopefully be anchoring a defence that includes Kye Rowles, Nathaniel Atkinson and Bos.
With Maty Ryan and Gauci likely to provide stability between the sticks as preferred and proven options in that squad, and Irankunda providing the x-factor from the bench when required, the excitement in the air as the Socceroos enter an obvious period of regeneration cannot be underestimated.
Right now, priority number one is to get Robertson officially capped, keep selecting and playing the future and to maintain the momentum the squad is currently enjoying.
Graham Arnold has done a cracking job reinventing the team, the next phase is to morph the talent into a cohesive unit and then set about World Cup qualification in early 2024.