Arnold calls up the Irankunda Socceroos for the first time



Graham Arnold is set to break bread with Nestory Irankunda after handing the prodigious teenager his first Socceroos call-up for the World Cup qualifiers.

Irankunda was named in Australia’s 25-man squad on Wednesday alongside a retired Daniel Arzani and Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Paul Izzo.

Arnold’s team will hold a training camp in Thailand this week, before facing Bangladesh in Dhaka on June 6 and Palestine in Perth on June 11.

Australia’s place in the final qualifying round is assured, but two wins can help support the Socceroos’ hopes of a favorable draw at the next stage.

Newcastle Jets forward Apostolos Stamatelopoulos also receives his first call-up, while dual-eligible defender Alessandro Circati will return home to Perth.

Bayern Munich-bound Irankunda caused a stir last week when he hinted he could switch allegiance to Burundi or Tanzania, given how often he has been overlooked in the international squad.

The 18-year-old, who was last at the Socceroos camp in March 2023 as a training player, was snubbed for the Olyroos’ disastrous qualifying campaign due to concerns over his maturity.

Now, however, Irankunda is in line to win his first cap for the senior team, alongside one-time wunderkind Arzani.

Arzani, 25, has not played an international match in almost six years but has thrived under Tony Popovic at Melbourne Victory in the men’s A-League this season.

Winning goaltender Izzo is in the running to earn his first cap, although he is expected to serve as Joe Gauci’s backup.

Former Adelaide goalkeeper Gauci will take on the frontline role as Arnold gives captain Mat Ryan a rest after a grueling two years for both club and country.

Adelaide United’s Nestory Irankunda celebrates a goal. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“We have a number of players who have had significant workloads of late and it is important that we give them adequate rest,” Arnold said.

“I want to make sure they are physically and mentally prepared for another 12 great months of qualifying.

“This has also allowed us to provide opportunities to players who have performed well for their clubs while we continue to build depth across the pitch.”

FOOTBALL TEAM:

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, Cammy Devlin, Ajdin Hrustic, Jackson Irvine, Connor Metcalfe, Josh Nisbet

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

© AAP

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