Garang Kuol named in Socceroos squad to play New Zealand

Socceroos bolter Garang Kuol has vowed to be “ruthless” in his bid for selection in Australia’s World Cup squad.

The Central Coast Mariners attacker, who turns 18 on Thursday, received an early birthday present on Wednesday when he was picked in a 31-man Socceroos squad for this month’s two-game series against New Zealand.

Kuol – who shot to prominence when he took on Spanish giants Barcelona at the MCG in May with the A-League All-Stars team – is one of seven uncapped players in the Graham Arnold-coached squad,

The other potential debutants are Kuol’s Scotland-born Mariners teammate, Jason Cummings, midfielders Keanu Baccus, Cameron Devlin and Tyrese Francois, defender Harrison Delbridge and the versatile Ryan Strain.

“With two games in four days, this camp provides us with a unique opportunity to bring in some new players who can push for selection ahead of the World Cup,” said Arnold, whose team meets the All Whites next Thursday in Brisbane and again on Sunday week in Auckland.

“The incentive couldn’t be bigger. There’s a place at the World Cup at stake and if you’re working hard and playing well, then there’s an opportunity for you to represent your country on the biggest stage.”

As previously reported by News Corp Australia, the squad also includes 34-year-old Japan-based goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, who has been lured out of international retirement by Arnold.

“I am humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to represent the Socceroos again, Langerak said,

“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.

“I am grateful for another opportunity. It was tough watching the team from afar.”

But there was no spot for Tom Rogic, who will return to football after signing a contract with English Championship side West Bromwich Albion after four months without a club following his departure from Scottish giants Celtic in May.

From the squad that sealed Australia’s 2022 World Cup qualification via June’s playoffs, missing from this camp are injured pair Kye Rowles and Craig Goodwin, midfielders Kenny Dougall and Gianni Stensness, left back Jason Davidson, striker Nick D’Agostino and veteran goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.

“It’s great that I can pick 31 and actually have to make some terrible phone calls to players that I left out,” Arnold said.

“I believe so much in this group of players, and … I don’t care what age they are. As long as they’ve got the ability and quality, I’m more than prepared to look at them.”

They include Kuol, who vowed to make his family proud.

“It’s just a huge privilege to be here,” said Kuol, the younger brother of 21-year-old former Mariners striker Alou Kuol, who is now at German club Stuttgart.

“I’ve always wanted to play for the Socceroos but I never thought it would happen so early.

“It’s a proud moment for me and my family – they did everything for us. Our job now is to make them proud.

“I just want to prove myself and keep moving forward. At this level of being an athlete, mentality is key. Regardless of age, if you just go in full guns blazing, wanting to prove yourself and be ruthless, then you can achieve whatever you want.

“I want to inspire young people to dream big. The sky’s the limit.”

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, Andrew Redmayne, Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Ryan Strain, Adam Taggart, Marco Tilio, Bailey Wright.

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