Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings shine on debut as Socceroos beat New Zealand | Friendlies


The Socceroos have wrapped up preparations for November’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over New Zealand which showcased the team’s best and worst form.

In Australia’s final match before taking on France at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on 22 November, second-half goals from Mitch Duke and Jason Cummings – the latter from the penalty spot – ensured Australia completed their Qatar 2022 preparations with a pair of wins against the All Whites, having defeated the same opponent in Brisbane last Thursday.

But it was the introduction of 18-year-old Garang Kuol with 20 minutes remaining that excited most, and the exciting attacker wasted no time showing why he has garnered international attention. His individual brilliance along the touchline created the chance preceding the penalty converted by his Central Coast teammate Cummings, who, like Kuol, was making his international debut.

Kuol’s 20-minute cameo, during which he never once looked overawed by the occasion of senior international football, has surely stamped his ticket to Qatar as Australia’s bolter.

Whether any of his teammates today did enough to force their way into calculations remains to be seen given the inconsistent nature of the Socceroos’ most recent two outings.

True to his word before the game, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold used the match as an opportunity to experiment, making wholesale changes to the team that edged New Zealand 1-0 on Thursday night in Brisbane.

Ten players who featured in the centenary celebration at Suncorp Stadium were released from camp, free to return to their club sides, before Australia had even traveled to Auckland.

Garang Kuol on international debut.
Garang Kuol on international debut. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

It meant Arnold made 11 changes to his starting line-up, with only Mat Leckie and Mitch Duke considered regulars, while the likes of Connor Metcalfe, Denis Genreau and Marco Tilio were offered a rare starting berth to press their case for selection in Australia’s 26-man squad for Qatar.

The group offered a glimpse into the future with many of those selected expected to form the nucleus of the Socceroos squad over the next World Cup cycle.

In the first five minutes, at least, the future looked bright as Australia started on the front foot. Riley McGree had the first genuine effort on goal inside the first quarter-hour with a long-range effort that packed power but not the required placement, shooting directly at All Whites custodian Ollie Sail.

But as the half wore on it was the home side who took control, dictating the game’s flow and tempo and rendering their visitors second best as Australia’s struggled for any meaningful possession inside their forward third.

And yet for all of New Zealand’s first-half dominance, the Socceroos finished the half with the best opportunity and should have taken a lead into the break.

Melbourne City midfielder Marco Tilio had the ball laid on a platter by Mitch Duke, who could have taken the shot himself but opted to slide the ball across for Tilio, waiting in front of an open net but inexplicably skewing his shot wide.

Whatever Arnold said at half-time worked as Australia came out in the second half with far greater intent, pushing high and pressing the Kiwis at every opportunity. Eight minutes into the half they struck gold when Duke powerfully headed home an inch-perfect cross from Metcalfe to give the Socceroos the lead.

Alex Grieve and Matthew Garbett both enjoyed half-chances for New Zealand but Andrew Redmayne, playing in green and gold for the first time since his penalty shootout heroics against Peru, could not be breached.

The introduction of Kuol reinjected the spark into the Socceroos side, and were it not for a last-ditch block he too might have had a goal on debut, 56 days out of the World Cup.



Source link