World Cup Qualifiers: Arnold hands Irankunda maiden Socceroos call-up


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

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

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

Australia’s spot in the final round of qualification is assured, but two wins can help support the Socceroos’ hopes of a favourable draw in the next stage. 

Newcastle Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos is also handed his first call-up, while dual-eligible defender Alessandro Circati is set to make a homecoming in Perth. 

Bayern Munich-bound Irankunda set tongues wagging last week when he hinted that he could switch allegiance to Burundi or Tanzania, given how often he has been overlooked for international selection.

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

Now, however, Irankunda is in line to win his first senior cap, alongside one-time wonderkid Arzani.

The 25-year-old Arzani has not won a cap in almost six years, but has thrived under the coaching of Tony Popovic at Melbourne Victory in the A-League Men this season. 

Victory goalkeeper Izzo is in contention to win his first cap, although it is expected he will act as back-up to Joe Gauci.

Former Adelaide keeper Gauci will step into the frontline role as captain Mat Ryan is given a rest by Arnold after a gruelling two years for both club and country.

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

“We’ve got several players who’ve had significant workloads in recent times, and it’s important we give them a proper break,” Arnold said.

“I want to ensure they’re physically and mentally prepared for another big 12 months of qualification. 

“This has also allowed us to provide opportunities to players who have been performing well at their clubs as we continue to build depth right across the pitch.”


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

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