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Australian Football: Socceroos World Cup preparations

The World Cup is fast approaching and the Socceroos have named a 31-man squad for the double-header against New Zealand as their preparations for Qatar move up a notch.

The Socceroos worked hard to qualify for the World Cup and had to do it the tough way via a play-off that saw them defeat the United Arab Emirates and then Peru on penalties.

But now they are there the excitement can really begin and the countdown is on to the big event in Qatar when Australia will face France, Tunisia and Denmark in Group D.

Before then coach Graham Arnold will have to name his squad and it looks as though he is facing some tricky decisions.

Arnold still has time and the two games against New Zealand will present him with the perfect opportunity to review what he has at his disposal and also offer some players the perfect chance to shine.

So let’s take a look at the very latest from the Socceroos camp as they prepare for the biggest tournament in world football.

Warm-up games

The Socceroos will begin their World Cup campaign when they take on the might of France in the opening group game on 23rd November.

As things stand they have two friendly matches against New Zealand and both of them will be played next week.

The first game will take place on Australia soil on Thursday 22nd September. It will take place at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane before they cross the Tasman to take on the Kiwis at Eden Park on Sunday 25th September.

It remains to be seen if any other matches will be squeezed in before the World Cup gets underway.

Arnold announces 31-man squad

Arnold has named a 31-man squad for the two games against New Zealand and has confirmed he will play two completely different sides to give everyone a chance to shine.

A couple of inclusions have particularly caught the eye. Teenager Garang Kuol gets the nod along with the Central Coast Mariners team-mate Jason Cummings, while goalkeeper Mitch Langerak comes out of international retirement.

Socceroos squad: Nathaniel Atkinson, Keanu Baccus, Aziz Behich, Martin Boyle, Jason Cummings, Harrison Delbridge, Milos Degenek, Thomas Deng, Cameron Devlin, Mitchell Duke, Tyrese Francois, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Fran Karacic, Joel King, Garang Kuol, Mitch Langerak, Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Jamie Maclaren, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe, Aaron Mooy, Adnrew Redmayne, Mathew Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Ryan Strain, Adam Taggart, Marco Tilio, Bailey Wright. 

Kuol gets his big chance

Garang Kuol has just turned 18 but Arnold clearly believes in the saying if you are good enough you are old enough.

The Central Coast Mariners starlet burst on to the scene last season and Arnold is a great believer in giving youth a chance. Kuol will now get his against New Zealand.

"I truly believe in Australian kids, since I took this job, doing the Olympic team as well, it was all about developing and giving youngsters an opportunity," he said.

Kuol is also ready to grab the opportunity with both hands and believes his age does not matter.

"It's just a huge privilege to be here," he said. "I've always wanted to play for the Socceroos but I never thought it would happen so early.

"At this level of being an athlete, mentality is key - so regardless of age, if you just go in full guns blazing, wanting to prove yourself, and be ruthless, you can achieve whatever you want."

Cummings finally gets the nod

It is something of a surprise that Cummings has had to wait this long to get the nod after bursting on to the scene earlier this year after arriving from Scotland.

Many felt he should have figured in the World Cup qualifying campaign after scoring goals for fun for the Mariners.

However the call is better late than never and Cummings will now be aiming to book his seat on the plane to Qatar.

"I was a bit lost for words, for once," Cummings said. "I was over the moon - just really excited, a really proud moment for me and my family. It was a goal of mine when I came to Australia, to try and get a call up."

Langerak back in the frame

34-year-old goalkeeper Mitch Langerak called time on his international career during the pandemic as based in Japan it meant he risked having to spend long periods of time away from his family.

Now things have settled he is grateful for the chance and will compete with Mat Ryan and Andrew Redmayne for the number one jersey.

"When I had made the decision to retire, we were in the middle of strict lockdowns in Japan and at the time, I was facing the prospect of spending months away from my wife and young children, so I had to make the hard call to step away from international football for my family," Langerak said.

"I am grateful for another opportunity, it was tough watching the team from afar and I was so happy for everyone when we qualified for the World Cup."

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