Graham Arnold was asked about the Socceroos claims of Bruno Fornaroli and Nestory Irankunda after their starts to the Isuzu UTE A-League season, while also singling out a major selection headache as the road to the 2026 World Cup begins.
Speaking as he named his 23-man squad for matches against Bangladesh and Palestine, Australia’s national team boss admitted that there were domestic-based players who could feel ‘hard done by’ after missing out in this international window.
This Socceroos squad is headlined by a maiden call-up for Portsmouth striker Kusini Yengi, while Jamie Maclaren, Brandon Borrello, Aziz Behich and Joe Gauci are the four representatives from the A-Leagues.
“I want you to understand, I had to put out the long list of selection two days after the England game and obviously the A-League hadn’t started yet,” Arnold explained.
“There are players in the A-League who can feel hard done by. Once again, it is down to the fact that I hadn’t seen them play.
“Joe Gauci had a very good season last season, probably those four A-League boys had good seasons last season. They’ve only just started this season and Joe Gauci is an up-and-coming goalkeeper doing well.”
He added: “I’ll have some headaches over the next week to select a starting XI.
“You’ve got the four centre-backs that I’ve picked; Circati is doing great at Parma, Cam Burgess is doing fantastic at Ipswich, Harry Souttar does what he does for us and Kye Rowles has been outstanding for us.
“I can only fit two of them in. It’ll be a big decision when they get here. Overall, it is about getting our tactics right for these games.”
Melbourne Victory’s Fornaroli will not get the chance to add to his two Socceroos caps this month despite an electric start to the Isuzu UTE A-League season, registering six goals in the opening three matches.
Asked about the naturalised striker, Arnold also name-dropped his teammate Daniel Arzani, who is out to turn his career around under Tony Popovic, having not featured for Australia since bursting onto the scene in 2018.
“No one is ruled out,” he said.
“Maybe if Bruno had ended last season the way he started it, I probably would’ve watched him closer. He’s had a fantastic start to the season, under Popa he’s doing a great job.
“So is Daniel Arzani. He didn’t finish the season that way at Macarthur. With that long off-season, it hurts the players.”
As for Irankunda, Adelaide’s 17-year-old sensation who never appears far from the headlines, Arnold suggested consistency is the key to earning a debut.
Indeed, the teen star has already scored a belter and been sent off in the opening three weeks of the season alone.
“I went with the 17s to Thailand, Nestor did very well. I do believe he has that great relationship at Adelaide,” Arnold said.
“They’re there not only to support on the field, but off the field as well. He’s got some great qualities. It is just probably getting more consistency with those qualities.
“He has shown that he can do incredible things but its more about the consistency of it. Whatever that next pathway is.”
Arnold also registered his surprise at the departures of Rado Vidosic and his former deputy Steve Corica at Melbourne City and Sydney FC respectively, with the latter being replaced by Ufuk Talay, who had been deputising as a Soceroos assistant in recent times.
“It was probably quite a surprise that so early in the A-League season two managers have been moved on,” he said.
“Uffy (Talay) was fantastic with us, but I always knew that his main goal was to get back to managing and coaching so I accept that.
“Brad Maloney, the Joeys coach, will come in and take that (assistant) role for this camp. Further down the track, I’ll obviously be looking for someone (else) to help.”