On Matchday 14 Pep Guardiola’s table-topping Manchester City take on Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur. With an extensive injury list of up to eight first-team…
The ‘welcome home’ matches against Ecuador are now complete.
Over the course of two rather robust and occasionally heated games, Graham Arnold offered Socceroos fans a glimpse into what the future may hold for green and gold endeavours.
With multiple new faces having made their debuts and several more with ten games or less earning minutes, it seems inevitable that a changing of the guard is about to occur. What have we learnt about our national team?
In recent years, the Socceroos have displayed a positive team culture that clearly exists on and off the pitch. For whatever Graham Arnold’s tactical limitations, the self-belief and self-respect that he has cultivated as a leader deserves the respect of even his harshest critics.
Against Ecuador, the “togetherness” attitude was best demonstrated by fan favourite Harry Souttar in his determined defence of debutant Alex Robertson in the face of a spiteful South American outburst.
The social media coverage of the Socceroos was encouraging too, highlighting the jovial environment shared by the players and staff alike. Additionally, older faces in the squad also appeared to take comfort in their new teammates. Nestory Irankunda, for example, was notably embraced by senior members of the squad like Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng. The mateship aspect of this team is rock solid and long may it continue.
In the absence of Aaron Mooy, Ajdin Hrustic, Mathew Leckie, and Jamie Maclaren, many pundits were quick to acknowledge that an opportunity existed to introduce and test the next generation.
With the exception of Ryan Strain, Nathaniel Atkinson, and Nestory Irankunda, all those selected took the field and generally made a good impression of themselves, even more so when you consider they faced a tough and talented Ecuadorian side.
In midfield, debutants Aiden O’Neill and Alex Robertson both stamped their authority and proved to any doubters that the holding midfield and box-to-box stocks are assured.
At left back, Jordan Bos injected the type of industry and athleticism needed to try and turn the tide of a losing game. And of course, Garang Kuol’s return to Australian shores and his first Socceroo goal was symbolic of the exciting talent emerging from the ranks.
Despite conceding two goals in his national team debut, Gauci looks promising between the sticks. Several good quality saves were made, including a particularly difficult one-hander early to deny Kevin Rodriguez. It would be amiss to blame Gauci for the defeat, noting the constant attacking pressure the Socceroos absorbed throughout the ninety minutes.
For more than a decade Mat Ryan has solidified his first-choice status, with his competition rarely starting ahead of him. With Ryan now joining Andrew Redmayne in the thirties, and the 2026 World Cup an entire qualification cycle away, can Gauci challenge Ryan’s undisputed claim to keeper? At a minimum, expect Gauci to achieve an overseas move in the near future.
Australia’s prayers for a long-term, high quality striker continue unanswered. Whilst a number of players have jostled for the starting position, no one player has truly cemented the role.
Mitchell Duke has certainly been the preferred starter for the bulk of the Arnold’s tenure, however he is approaching the twilight of his career and it would be unfair to expect of him to maintain his current output.
The likes of Noah Botic and Luka Jovanovic have displayed their quality in domestic football and there should be positivity that the youth are striving to break into the national team.
However, only three years remain between the present and the 2026 World Cup, leaving little time for potential contenders to perform at the level that will elevate Socceroos success.
Until such a point that a young striker steals the headlines, expect our usual battlers in Duke, Jason Cummings, and Jamie Maclaren to shoulder the responsibility of number nine.