Socceroos coach Graham Arnold says the list of players who can be “trusted” to represent Australia has almost tripled since the start of his tenure three years ago as he continues to give rookies opportunities at international level.
Three more players – A-League trio Denis Genreau, Connor Metcalfe and Ruon Tongyik – made their Socceroos debuts in Australia’s 5-1 thrashing of Chinese Taipei on Tuesday morning.
The win, highlighted by a brace from striker Mitch Duke, sealed the Socceroos’ berth in the third round of AFC qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and improved Australia’s perfect second-round Group B record to 18 points from six matches.
Showing the depth at his disposal for Australia’s condensed block of four matches in Kuwait City, Arnold named a completely different team to the 11 who started in the Socceroos’ comfortable 3-0 win over Kuwait last Friday.
The 11 starters against Chinese Taipei had a combined 93 caps before the match, with defender Trent Sainsbury, striker Jamie Maclaren and right-back Rhyan Grant providing 75 of them.
A goal straight from kick-off! ⚽️
The first in @mitchduke8's brace and just his second @Socceroos goal ever 🙌
“It’s part of the development of the Socceroos family and the Socceroos squad that the young players are the strength of it,” Arnold said.
“(When) they get an opportunity to show what they’re worth and show their capabilities … it’s great.
“When I took over the (Socceroos) job (in 2018), I probably had maybe 14 or 15 players that the country trusted, but now I’ve probably got a list of 40 and we’re heading down the right pathway.”
Duke’s double, which took his Socceroos tally to four goals from eight appearances, was complemented by a Maclaren penalty, and headers from Sainsbury and his fellow centre-back Harry Souttar.
“It could always be better,” said Duke in reflecting on some wasted chances.
“As a striker I know I could have got a few more in the back of the net, so you’re never satisfied. You always want to do more, especially for your country.
“(We’re) not too happy about the performance. It could have been a bit more polished, but we got the job done.”
The Socceroos also conceded a goal for just the second time in six Group B matches.
But Wei-jie Gao’s sweet 62nd minute strike was only a minor blip for the Socceroos, who now switch their attention to Saturday morning’s clash against Nepal.
“Two more games to go in this group, so we want to get maximum points. That’s the main target for us,” Duke said.
Australia 5 (Souttar 12’, Maclaren 27’, Sainsbury 41’, Duke 46’ and 84’) d Chinese Taipei 1 (Gao 62’)
Socceroos: Danny Vukovic, Rhyan Grant, Harry Souttar, Trent Sainsbury (c), Curtis Good, Denis Genreau (Ruon Tongyik 85’), Kenny Dougall (Connor Metcalfe 64’), Riley McGree (Ajdin Hrustic 74’), Brandon Borrello (Chris Ikonomidis 63’), Mitch Duke, Jamie Maclaren Nikita Rukavytsya 74’).
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