Former Socceroo Bruce Djite (Pictures: Adelaide United/Socceroos, Design by Madeline Irwin)

“People have been doubting the youngsters since the golden generation.” That is the opinion of former Socceroo and Adelaide United striker Bruce Djite when looking at the squad selected for the Socceroos’ friendly against Argentina.

Bruce Djite spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum to dissect Graham Arnold’s selection for Thursday night’s match as well as what the future holds.

Australia’s magical run at the World Cup just six months ago has undoubtedly reinstated hope and belief in what’s to come for upcoming tournaments.

A big part of the new-found optimism is down to a promising core of youth coming through the ranks, as Arnold’s squad selection comprises an average age of 25, not taking into account the likes of Garang Kuol and Nestory Irankunda.

When asked which names in the squad stood out the most, Djite highlighted two players in particular.

“We can talk about [Alessandro] Circati in the sense that not many people have seen him, if anyone, which is another example of Football Australia and Graham Arnold casting the net as far and wide as possible,” Djite told The Inner Sanctum.

“Alexander Robertson has had a good season with Manchester City from all accounts [too], so it will be great to see him hopefully get a few minutes.

“It shows that there are footballers out there that the general public may not know about who are really tied to Australia even though they are overseas, so it’s really important to keep uncovering these gems.”

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Circati is considered a massive coup for the Socceroos, as the 19-year-old notified Arnold of his intentions to play for Australia as opposed to Italy, where he is currently playing his football for Parma alongside the legendary Gianluigi Buffon.

22-year-old shot-stopper Joe Gauci is another name that has performed impressively for Djite’s former club Adelaide United, as his time as Australia’s number one approaches near.

“Joe Gauci is the future of Socceroos goalkeepers and I think there’s no better prospect than him when you look at the young ones.”

Since the departure of Tim Cahill, criticism has been aimed at the lack of depth around the centre-forward position with multiple names failing to grab the opportunity with both hands, but Djite isn’t as downbeat.

“I remember even before when I was getting called up for Socceroos squads when everyone was on Mark Viduka’s back, I mean what would you do to have Viduka in your squad right now?” he said.

“I think Mitch Duke was fantastic for us at the World Cup with his ability to press and make a nuisance of himself. Of course, he isn’t the flashiest and most technically gifted striker but he also has different qualities which help the rest of the team.

“For the way this team is set up, Duke is getting more bang for his buck than a player like Jamie Maclaren who is a fantastic finisher and player in his own right, but they’re different types of players.”

There is a strong sentiment that Australia has been scratching the surface to identify and produce that same calibre of players since the curtain closed on that ‘golden era’.

Now, with the youth development shining through as demonstrated in Arnold’s selection, Djite can see the grassroots and junior programs improving but is still well aware that more work needs to be done.

“We’ve still got a long way to go. I think there are some good young players and there’s some excitement around the talent,” Djite explained.

“They’re not household names, they’re talented in their own right and some may go on to become household names depending on their club careers.

“We don’t have that individual brilliance to the equivalent of Leeds United when Viduka and Harry Kewell were there or Mark Schwarzer and those Premier League players just yet.

“Everyone talks about Ange [Postecoglou] because he’s the big star now due to his arrival at Tottenham. There’s a lack of players playing at that very high level, but as a team, the collective work really well together which is where the Socceroos are fantastic.”

Before Australia’s qualification to Qatar, many were calling for Arnold’s head due to the style of football that was being displayed, which leaned toward the conservative side. A record-breaking World Cup campaign has silenced those views in the meantime.

With the next generation breaking through, does Djite think that Arnold will change his tactical approach to set up for the future?

“After a successful World Cup, I think Arnie continues on the same trajectory because it’s hard for a national team coach to change styles with a limited amount of time,” he concluded.

“For the friendly against Argentina, the mentality needs to be nothing to lose everything to gain, and Arnie will be managing this game with one eye on the future including qualifiers, Asian Cup, and the next World Cup.

“I think for some of these younger guys, adaptability is going to be very important as well as making the most of the opportunity and putting their best foot forward for future selections.”

Despite achieving above and beyond everyone’s expectations in Qatar, it hasn’t been a smooth ride in terms of qualifying, as Australia has had to experience the dreaded play-off route for the past two World Cups.

The nine-time capped Socceroo warned that a knockout-stage berth will not automatically translate into an easy qualification process.

“Asia’s hard, there are a lot of good teams in Asia. One good showing at the World Cup does not automatically qualify us next time around and we’ll have to be near-on perfect to qualify for 2026.”

Overall, there is great reason to feel buoyant about the time ahead for the green and gold according to Djite.

“I think what Arnie has done well is increase the depth of the squad by bringing in more younger players and giving them more exposure,” Djite said.

“There’s a number of players missing from this squad and let’s not forget players from the Olyroos team who you could argue that some deserve an opportunity to represent the Socceroos.

“All of a sudden, the pool of talent is starting to get a bit deeper which is great to see.”

Regardless of the end result against the world champions, Australian football is slowly reaping the rewards from the fruits of their labour.

The situation may not be as dire as some initially made it out to be.

Australia takes on Argentina in an international friendly hosted in China, Beijing, commencing on Thursday night.

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