Australia’s teen sensation Garang Kuol bolstered his case for a World Cup call-up on Sunday with a brilliant cameo in the football players‘ 2-0 win over New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday as he became the country’s youngest debutant since Harry Kewell.
The 18-year-old replaced Marco Tilio with 17 minutes remaining and was instrumental in the football players second goal, beating the defense at the pace of the game that led fellow debutant Jason Cummings to score from the penalty spot.
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Former Liverpool winger Kewell made his first football players he appeared as a 17-year-old in 1996 before representing Australia at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. Kuol bid for a place in Graham Arnold’s squad for Qatar.
“He’s come in and he’s settled in really well, all the guys love him,” Arnold said. “He felt very relaxed when he took the field because he is already part of the family.
“When he came out, he did well, but this is not even the first step for the boy, he has a long way to go. He has to put some meat and muscle on.”
“He’s quick, obviously, but at the same time he needs to get better at his decision-making and defensive efforts.”
Mitchell Duke opened the scoring with a header in the 54th minute and Cummings scored from the penalty spot on his debut as Australia handed New Zealand a defeat in their first game in front of their home crowd in almost five years.
It was Kuol’s pace that created the second chance, the Central Coast Mariners attacker bursting into the box before Riley McGree was denied by goalkeeper Oli Sail and Cummings saw his next strike on Liberato Cacace’s hand.
Scotland striker Cummings stepped up to score from the spot and capped a strong second half from a largely second-tier Australian side, as Arnold made complete changes to his line-up after Thursday’s win over the same opposition.
the all whiteswho missed out on a World Cup spot when they lost in a playoff against Costa Rica in June, controlled the first half with Chris Wood, Matt Garbett and Elijah Just all close behind.
But the best opening of the half fell to Tilio a minute before half-time, only for the Melbourne City striker to deflect his shot wide with the goal wide open.
Duke made amends nine minutes into the second half when he found Connor Metcalfe’s cross with a hard downward header that gave Sail few chances and Cummings sealed the win with 10 minutes to go.
Australia will begin its World Cup campaign, the country’s fifth consecutive appearance in the final, against defending champions France on November 22 before taking on Tunisia and Denmark.
Arnold acknowledged that he will have a hard time deciding who will be included in his squad for those games, but stressed that participating regularly at the club level will be key with the football players unable to play again before the final.
“I am going to contact Panadol to be our new sponsor because I am going to have a lot of headaches to fit into a 26-man team,” he added.
“Today is not the last day for the players to be chosen, I will make it clear.
“Because Qatar has a short introduction of maybe seven days, the boys have to go back to their clubs, they have seven weeks, they have to play, they have to be fit.
“They probably have to be in better shape than ever.”