Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Socceroos’ upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Palestine.
The Socceroos are back in action as they begin their road to the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
After recording a 7-0 win over Bangladesh on Thursday, November 16 in Melbourne, Australia will travel to Kuwait to face Palestine on Tuesday, November 21.
Not only are these two matches important on their quest to achieve qualification for a sixth straight World Cup, but it’s also Australia’s final hit out before the Asian Cup – to take place in two months time – meaning a host of players will be looking to put their best foot forward for selection.
The Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast team of David Weiner, Tom Smithies and David Davutovic have dissected all the biggest talking points from the 7-0 win over Bangladesh, and cast their eyes ahead to Tuesday’s clash with Palestine, making some big selection calls and identifying the “problem position” to keep an eye on over the next World Cup qualification cycle.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the second World Cup qualifier of the international window.
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When are the Socceroos playing?
Palestine v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 21 November 2023
Kick-off: 5.00pm (local) / 1am AEDT
Venue: Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium, Kuwait
How can I watch?
All matches will be shown live on 10, 10 Play and Paramount+.
How does qualifying work?
Second round of qualifying (current stage)
Australia in one of nine four-team groups, top two from each of nine groups progress to next round AND qualify for 2027 Asian Cup.
Third round of qualifying
18 nations from second round split into three groups of six. Top two nations from each group (six in total) earn a spot at the World Cup.
Remaining 2.5 World Cup places
The nations that finish third and fourth in the above groups form two new groups of three. These nations face off in a mini-tournament on neutral ground. The countries that come out on top of each group get the remaining two full World Cup spots.
But what about that extra 0.5?
The two second-place nations in the above groups play each other. The winner then goes into an inter-continental playoff to fight for that final 0.5 slot.
Here are all the groups in Second Round Qualifying
Group A: Qatar, India, Kuwait, Afghanistan
Group B: Japan, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar
Group C: South Korea, China, Thailand, Singapore
Group D: Oman, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei
Group E: Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Hong Kong
Group F: Iraq, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia
Group G: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tajikistan, Pakistan
Group H: United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, Nepal
Group I: Australia, Palestine, Lebanon, Bangladesh
When are the rest of the Socceroos’ qualifiers?
Australia v Lebanon
Date: March 21 2024
Lebanon v Australia
Date: March 26 2024
Bangladesh v Australia
Date: June 6 2024
Australia v Palestine
Date: June 11 2024
Graham Arnold selected a strong 23-man squad for the upcoming qualifiers that are also the final hit-out ahead of Australia’s Asian Cup campaign in January.
There have been a few changes from the squad that faced England and New Zealand last month, including the return of goalkeeping duo Joe Gauci and Ashley Maynard-Brewer, Melbourne City striker Jamie Maclaren and a maiden call-up for attacker Kusini Yengi after an impressive start to life at Portsmouth. He made his debut against Bangladesh on Thursday.
Tom Glover, Andrew Redmayne, Milos Degenek, Alex Robertson, Patrick Yazbek, Awer Mabil and Mohamed Toure have all dropped out of the October squad.
Martin Boyle missed out against Bangladesh on Thursday night, with a recent flare-up of a troublesome knee injury leading head coach Graham Arnold, in consultation with Boyle’s club staff at Hibernian in Scotland, did not want to risk further inflammation of Boyle’s knee and made the call to delay his link-up with the squad until they touched down in Kuwait.
Massimo Luongo has retained his spot, as has his Ipswich Town teammate Cameron Burgess, while defenders Lewis Miller and Alessandro Circati are also in the squad, along with midfielder Aiden O’Neill.
Injured trio Nathaniel Atkinson, Riley McGree and Mathew Leckie missed out on selection and will be hoping to prove their fitness in the lead-in to the tournament in two months time.
Other players left out include Cammy Devlin, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Nestory Irankunda and Garang Kuol.
On the Official Isuzu UTE A-League podcast, Smithies tipped Boyle as a strong contender for a starting berth after linking up with the squad before the Palestine clash.
“To start with (there will be changes) and then I think if the game goes according to plan, there’ll be more changes,” Smithies said.
“They deliberately took off players like Jackson Irvine at half-time against Bangladesh to save them for this game.
“I think Martin Boyle, I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t start. He’s such an important player. He didn’t fly back to Australia for the first game against Bangladesh because he had a swollen knee, and decided a long-haul flight was the last thing he needed.
“But he says he’s raring to go for the Palestine game… he’s going to come into the equation, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t start.”
Davutovic, meanwhile, hopes to see a pair of former Isuzu UTE A-League talents earn significant minutes against Palestine.
“Sammy Silvera didn’t feature the other night,” Davutovic said. “I’d like to see him in action. He’s come on in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years.
“And (Kusini) Yengi, just more of Yengi – he’s a really interesting one. I don’t feel we ever saw his full potential in the A-Leagues but his life in Portsmouth got off to an absolute flyer.
“I think he’s got enormous potential – and again, very different to any of the current striking options we have.”
Goalkeepers: Mathew Ryan, Joe Gauci, Ashley Maynard-Brewer
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Ryan Strain, Jordan Bos, Cameron Burgess, Lewis Miller, Alessandro Circati
Midfielders: Jackson Irvine, Massimo Luongo, Connor Metcalfe, Keanu Baccus, Aiden O’Neill
Forwards: Mitchell Duke, Jamie Maclaren, Martin Boyle, Craig Goodwin, Brandon Borrello, Samuel Silvera, Kusini Yengi
The ‘problem position’ for this World Cup cycle
Lewis Miller earned Player of the Match honours from the Subway Socceroos after an assist and a clean sheet playing at right-back in a 7-0 win over Bangladesh – but according to his club and national teammate Martin Boyle, he could have had seven assists!
It was a light-hearted remark from one Hibernian talent to another after his promising performance on the right side of defence for the Socceroos against Bangladesh. But the Official Isuzu UTE A-League Podcast crew have discussed improvement areas Miller can target moving forward if he hopes to make that right-back position his own.
“Lewis Miller did himself a lot of good in some ways over the last couple of camps, but I thought his delivery was poor against Bangladesh,” said Smithies.
“Martin Boyle made a joke that he was talking to his clubmate Miller saying he should have had seven assists, not one – and he did have a lot of opportunities to put the ball in. He didn’t make that unarguable claim for that right-back spot.
“It’s particularly interesting with the right-back position – it may be one to watch.”
“The right-back position was the, I guess problem position, the big question mark in Qatar (at the World Cup) wasn’t it?” Added Davutovic.
“It was the one that really went down to the wire. Nathaniel Atkinson was in there, then Fran Karacic in there as well. Milos Degenek played there too. So I think that’s another one (where) I think there’ll be a lot of changes in that right-back position throughout the course of this campaign.”
Arnold breaks Socceroos record
Graham Arnold has broken an Australian men’s national team coaching record in the Socceroos’ 7-0 win over Bangladesh on Thursday.
The 60-year-old surpassed Frank Farina’s record (58 games) for most ‘A’ Internationals as Socceroos coach when he took the helm for the 59th time at AAMI Park.
After first serving as an assistant to Farina and Guus Hiddink, Arnold took over as senior head coach on a caretaker basis in 2006 after the latter departed following the FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Arnold led the Socceroos to the 2007 Asian Cup, where they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Japan on penalties.
He would return to the helm over a decade later in 2018 following a successful stint as boss of Sydney FC, replacing Bert van Marwijk.
Arnold led the Socceroos to the 2019 Asian Cup, where they were knocked out in the quarters, before securing qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where Australia made it through to the Round of 16 for only the second time in the country’s history.
Throughout his two stints at the helm of the national team, Arnold’s record now stands at 34 wins, 9 draws and 16 losses.
“It’s certainly a proud moment and an achievement that I’ll reflect on when the time is right,” Arnold said.
“I look at some of the names on that list – Farina, Arok, Thompson, Rasic – guys I played under or assisted in the early part of my coaching career, and it gives you some perspective on what a journey it’s been so far.
“I think back to that caretaker period and how much I learnt about coaching; it was a challenging experience and one that on reflection I probably wasn’t ready for. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given and what it was able to teach me ahead of my pathway into club coaching.
“I was able to put lessons from that time into practice, develop and eventually return to the Socceroos much more prepared for the role. It’s been a privilege to be part of the national team again with the benefit of that experience, and I’m immensely proud of what this group has been able to achieve in the last four years.
“In my opinion, there’s no greater honour than representing your nation on the international stage. I look at the young players coming through the Socceroos system now full of pride in the work they’ve put in to get where they are, and the journey that’s ahead of them.
“I’ve always loved being a part of the Socceroos culture and my desire to see Australia fulfil its footballing potential is still driving me to take this group to further success.”
World ranking: 96
Palestine are the second-highest ranked side in the Socceroos’ group at number 96 in the world.
The Lions of Canaan have qualified for the last two Asian Cups in 2015 and 2019 – along with booking their place at the 2023 iteration, to take place in two months time.
In 2019, they secured two 0-0 draws in the group stage against Syria and Jordan, but fell to a 3-0 defeat to Australia, meaning they just missed out on progressing to the Round of 16 as one of the best third-ranked sides.
They qualified for the upcoming Asian Cup after topping their group with three wins from three games against Philippines, Mongolia and Yemen.
Palestine’s last World Cup qualification campaign ended in the second round, finishing third in their group behind Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.
The match with the Socceroos will be happening on neutral territory in Kuwait, as a result of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.
In the lead-up to the November qualifiers, Palestine had to withdraw from a tournament in Malaysia, which was set to serve as a warmup for their matches against both the Socceroos and Lebanon.