Australia Assembles Power-Packed Squad for 2026 World Cup Qualifiers

Australia coach Graham Arnold has selected 18-year-old Nestory Irankunda and other key players for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Irankunda's recent headlines have not deterred Arnold, who offered him his first Socceroos call-up. The squad includes several first-time call-ups and notable stars like Daniel Arzani.


Reuters | Melbourne | Updated: 29-05-2024 10:28 IST | Created: 29-05-2024 10:28 IST
Australia Assembles Power-Packed Squad for 2026 World Cup Qualifiers
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Australia coach Graham Arnold has included 18-year-old Nestory Irankunda in his 25-man squad for 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine, days after the Bayern Munich-bound winger complained about being overlooked for selection. The Adelaide United forward, who was not considered for Olympic qualifiers at the recent under-23 Asian Cup, generated headlines in Australia last week when he said he might consider switching allegiance to Burundi or Tanzania.

Irankunda's warning was criticised by local soccer pundits but did not appear to upset Arnold, who gave him his first call-up for the Socceroos squad released on Wednesday. Irankunda, who was born in a Tanzanian refugee camp to Burundian parents before moving to Australia as an infant, is set to join Bayern Munich in July.

Arnold also included Melbourne Victory playmaker Daniel Arzani, a player who once generated as much excitement in Australia as Irankunda when he became the country's youngest World Cup footballer at 19 during the 2018 tournament in Russia. Garang Kuol later usurped Arzani when he played for Australia at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar aged 18.

Arzani secured a dream move to Manchester City in 2018 but suffered a serious knee injury when on loan at Celtic and has not appeared for the Socceroos since Russia. Now 25, Arzani's selection follows a strong season with Melbourne Victory, who lost Saturday's A-League title-decider to Central Coast Mariners.

With regular goalkeeper and captain Mat Ryan rested for the international window, Arzani's Victory team mate Paul Izzo was included in his first Socceroos squad along with goalkeepers Joe Gauci and Lawrence Thomas. Uncapped Newcastle Jets forward Apostolos Stamatelopoulos will also hope to debut in Dhaka against Bangladesh on June 6 or Palestine in Perth on June 11.

Unbeaten Australia have already reached the third phase of Asian qualifying but good results in the qualifiers will boost their chances of a kinder draw. "I've spoken about how important these two games are when it comes to official FIFA rankings, and while we've qualified for round three it's important that we take all six points," Arnold said in a media release.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Joe Gauci, Paul Izzo, Lawrence Thomas

Defenders: Aziz Behich, Jordy Bos, Cameron Burgess, Alessandro Circati, Gethin Jones, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar, Ryan Strain Midfielders: Daniel Arzani, Keanu Baccus, Cameron Devlin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Connor Metcalfe, Josh Nisbet

Forwards: Martin Boyle, Mitchell Duke, Nestory Irankunda, Mat Leckie, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Adam Taggart, Kusini Yengi

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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