The Socceroos will dust off Bangladesh and Palestine, but what really matters is the debut of Irankunda and the return of Arzani



The Socceroos are set to advance to the second round of Asian Confederation World Cup qualifying over the next seven days, but it is the performances of two players set to play starring roles in the national team that matter more than the scoreline.

Bangladesh will simply be outplayed by the Australians on Thursday night, after conceding seven goals in November when the teams first met at AAMI Park. Palestine put up a much tougher fight six days later, losing by a single goal to the Socceroos in Kuwait.

Graham Arnold’s men will now take on Bangladesh at Bashundhara Kings Arena on Thursday night Australian time before heading to Perth to take on the Palestinians at HBF Park.

Barring the oddity, results seem well assured, but the potential debut of Bayern Munich-bound Nestory Irankunda and the emotional return of a player once considered in a similar vein to the Adelaide United star born in Tanzania are the stories of greatest significance.

Daniel Arzani is back in the national team after a long absence and only six caps before.

Australia’s Daniel Arzani competes for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

After making his debut for the Socceroos in 2018 and, at the age of 19 years and 163 days, becoming the youngest Socceroo to participate in a FIFA World Cup, the world seemed to be on his oysters and three appearances from the bench in Russia 2018 seemed to point to a long run in the green and gold.

Sadly, injuries, poor form and multiple moves around Europe after a tragic start at Celtic saw Arzani fade into the distance when it came to Socceroo team selection and a full World Cup cycle came and went. It passed without him being really considered.

A more consistent spell in Australia with Macarthur FC and an even better season at Melbourne Victory that ended with a grand final loss to the Mariners two weeks ago, has Arzani back in Arnold’s sights and now, included in the squad for the two games that will end the second qualifying round.

Arzani, who just turned 25, is a spectacle for many of his followers, of which I am one.

Let’s not beat around the bush in terms of where the player who first made a name for himself in the A-League with Melbourne City in 2017 was lacking. Arzani was never the hardest working defensively.

For all his talent, power and skill on the ball, international football at the highest level requires players willing to work harder and more diligently than Arzani seemed willing to put in the effort in the early stages of his career.

Now more mature, healthy and hungry, Australian football could well benefit from a sustained period of Arzani’s influence and something tells me the trials and tribulations of recent years might have him more determined than many realize.

Irankunda is a player heralded with more passion than the Iranian-born Arzani as he embarks on his most promising career.

Simply explosive for the Reds in 60 appearances as a teenager, the 18-year-old will travel to Germany in July, with Arnold keen to secure his commitment to the Socceroos with an appearance as soon as possible.

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

From time to time a generational player appears.

For the Socceroos, Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell became that player and many believe Irankunda could well have the talent to become the next.

Bayern certainly hold that view and it will be interesting to see where they use him over the next 12 months, with a loan likely and development almost certainly a key objective.

Seeing the two players on the field during the Bangladesh and Palestine matches will warm the hearts of many Socceroos fans.

Knowing that Arzani is back to close to his best and shooting like a mature professional and watching Irankunda explode from attacking midfield in the national colors could well be the most exciting things we’ve seen since the team faced Argentina in that epic World Cup round of 16 clash. in June 2023.

Coupled with the inclusions of Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and Central Coast champion Josh Nisbet, as well as the new generation of Socceroos talent including Kusini Yengi, Paul Izzo and Alessandro Circati, there’s plenty to be hopeful about if you’re a fan of the Socceroos. Australian football.

Two victories, a place in the third round and hope for the future. What more could a Socceroo fan want right now?

Join me for a live call of both qualifying matches here on The roar.
Thursday June 6, Socceroos vs Bangladesh 8:45pm (AEST)
Tuesday 11 June, Socceroos vs Palestine 10.10pm (AEST)

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