Socceroos will dust up Bangladesh and Palestine, yet Irankunda’s debut and Arzani’s return are what really matters


The Socceroos sit poised to cruise through the second round of Asian Confederation World Cup qualification over the next seven days, yet it is the performances of two players set to play starring roles for the national team that is of greater significance than the scoreline.

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

Graham Arnold’s men are now set to account for Bangladesh away at the Bashundhara Kings Arena on Thursday night Australian time, before heading to Perth to take on the Palestinians at HBF Park.

Barring the bizarre, the results are seemingly well assured, yet the potential debut of Bayern Munich-bound Nestory Irankunda and the emotional return of a player that was once thought of in a similar vein as the Tanzanian-born Adelaide United star are the stories of most significance.

Daniel Arzani is back in the national set-up after a lengthy absence and just six prior caps.

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

After debuting for the Socceroos back in 2018, and at the age of 19 years and 163 days becoming the youngest Socceroo to feature at a FIFA World Cup, the world did seem to be his oyster and three appearances off the bench in Russia 2018 appeared to point to a long career in the green and gold.

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

A more consistent period back in Australia with Macarthur FC and an even better season at Melbourne Victory that ended in grand final defeat to the Mariners two weeks ago, has Arzani back in the cross-hairs of Arnold and now, included in the squad for the two matches that will end the second round of qualifying.

Just turned 25, Arzani is a sight for sore eyes for many of his supporters, of which I am one.

Sharpshooters ????#Socceroos #DifferentBreed

— Subway Socceroos (@Socceroos) June 2, 2024

Let’s not beat around the proverbial bush in terms of where the player who first made his name at A-League level with Melbourne City back in 2017 was lacking. Arzani was never the hardest worker in defence.

For all his talent, power and skill on the ball, international football at the highest standard requires players willing to work harder and more diligently than what Arzani appeared willing to strive for in the early parts 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 that the trials and tribulations of recent years might have him more determined than many will realise.

Irankunda is a player heralded even more passionately than what the Iranian-born Arzani was, as he embarks on the most promising of careers.

Simply explosive for the Reds across 60 games as a teenager, the 18-year-old will head to Germany in July, with Arnold keen to lock in his commitment to the Socceroos with an appearance ASAP.

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Every now and again a generational player comes along.

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

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

Seeing the two players on the pitch across the Bangladesh and Palestine matches will warm the cockles of many a Socceroos fan’s heart.

Knowing that Arzani is back to near his best and firing as a mature professional and seeing Irankunda exploding from attacking midfield in national colours might well be the most exciting things we have seen since the team took on Argentina in that epic World Cup Round of 16 clash in June of 2023.

Along with the inclusions of Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and Central Coast champion Josh Nisbet, as well as the Socceroos new breed of talent that includes Kusini Yengi, Paul Izzo and Alessandro Circati, there is plenty for which to be hopeful if you are an Australian football supporter.

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

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Join me for a live call of both qualifying matches here on The Roar.
Thursday June 6, Socceroos vs Bangladesh 8.45pm (AEST)
Tuesday June 11, Socceroos vs Palestine 10.10pm (AEST)

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