On Friday afternoon, the Socceroos announced their 24-man squad to take on Saudi Arabia and China in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. Most players that were named were of no surprise to fans, however the inclusion of 22-year-old Gianni Stensness came as a shock to most.
Gianni Stensness is a versatile player that stands at 6’1″ and can play in either the holding midfield or centre-back positions.
He has spent time in the youth systems of both Australia and New Zealand, whilst making 13 appearances for New Zealand’s U23’s between 2019-2021, some of which included the recent Tokyo Olympics.
The dual-eligibility is due to him being born in Australia to a New Zealand-born father.
Whilst Stensness declared his desire to play for New Zealand in 2019, in September this year he made the backflip decision to represent Australia, turning his back on the All Whites without making an appearance for them.
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Fast-forward a couple of months to November and he’s been selected by Graham Arnold to be a part of a crucial stage in World Cup Qualification for the Socceroos.
Stensness has spent the last three years in the A-League, playing predominantly in the midfield for both Wellington Phoenix and Central Coast Mariners.
In the 2020/21 A-League season he made 22 appearances as a midfielder for the Mariners.
However in August he secured a transfer to Viking FK in Norway’s top tier off the back of some impressive performances for New Zealand in the Olympics.
He has since started 10 consecutive league games as a centre-back for the club, and they currently sit third in the Eliteserien.
Over those 10 games Stensness has averaged 3.8 clearances per game, 4.1 duels won per game and an 82 per cent pass accuracy. He has also only been dribbled past 0.5 times per game, as well as maintaining an average rating of 7.05 per game.
As a result of this, Graham Arnold has selected him in the Socceroos squad as a centre-back alongside Harry Souttar, Trent Sainsbury and Milos Degenek.
Stensness would be most suited alongside Souttar, as it would give him the freedom to play as a ball-playing centre-back.
Whilst it is unlikely Stensness features over the next two matches, the 22-year-old has a whole career ahead of him in the national team set-up if he continues to grow and put in performances like he has been in Norway.
Don’t forget to catch the Socceroos in action this Thursday night at 8:10pm AEDST against Saudi Arabia.
All statistics per Sofascore.
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