The Socceroos’ last two matches have seen them defeat Kuwait and Chinese Taipei. Both wins have been seen as a solid foundation for the national side to move into the next stage of World Cup Qualification.
However, one thing that brings this into more focus. The fact that Graham Arnold has handed debuts to six players in those two games. Fran Karacic, Kenny Dougall, and Riley McGree all debuted against Kuwait, and all handled themselves well at the international level.
Then against Chinese Taipei, three more players were handed their Socceroos debut. A-League young guns Denis Genreau, Connor Metcalfe, and Ruon Tongyik all donned the green and gold as the Socceroos swept aside their opponents.
Boss Graham Arnold had nothing but praise in his post-match press conference for his young players.
“All three of them [Genreau, Metcalfe, Tongyik} are young kids who have done exceptionally well at their clubs this year in the A-League, no doubt it was tough for them to leave their clubs and miss the Finals Series, but to debut for your country, your nation [is special],” Arnold said post-game.
“Ruon Tongyik, when I said ‘come on’ you should have seen the smile on his face. He was just so happy to go out there and debut for Australia. They all did exceptionally well. It’s part of the development of the Socceroos family and the Socceroos squad, and the young players are the strength of it”.
With the emergence of such a talented group of younger players to compliment the older stalwarts, Arnold does not have to rely on the same players every match. When the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, and Brett Emerton were at the height of their powers, much was expected of them. However now, the load can be shared with the younger generation more than capable of holding their own.
“When I first took over the job, I probably had a list of 14-15 players that the country trusted, but now I have probably got a list of 40 and we are headed down the right pathway,” Arnold said.
A-League a stable ground for youth development
The A-League has proven this year, to be a great place for the younger players to develop. Metcalfe and Tongyik, in particular, being at the centre of most things good for Melbourne City and Central Coast. It shows others that the pathway to the national side can be done through the domestic league.
This can only be good for the competition as young players will not jet overseas at the first opportunity. Although playing football in one of Europe’s top five leagues is still the main aim for most footballers. However, plying their trade in the domestic league is a great stepping stone.
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As we have seen in the past two matches, Arnold is not afraid to give the youngsters their shot. What is even better is that they have all taken it with both hands. Perhaps providing the Socceroos boss with a selection headache when the qualifying campaign reaches the pointy end. It now puts pressure on the more established players to produce consistently. Because if they let up, the younger players will be snapping at their heels.
While some will point to the level of opposition, the fact is that these players deserved their chance with the national side. Some will be fortunate to make the squad for the World Cup and others will have the disappointment of missing out.
However one thing is for certain, the future of Australian football is in very safe hands.
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