2022 International Friendly
  • Mitchell Duke (54')
  • Jason Cummings (80' PEN)

Debutants Garang Kuol, Jason Cummings star as Australia see off New Zealand

Australia's teenage sensation Garang Kuol strengthened his case for a World Cup call-up on Sunday with a sparkling cameo in the Socceroos' 2-0 win over New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday as he became the country's youngest debutant since Harry Kewell.

The 18-year-old replaced Marco Tilio with 17 minutes left and was instrumental in the Socceroos' second goal, outpacing the defence in the passage of play that led to fellow debutant Jason Cummings scoring from the penalty spot.

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Former Liverpool winger Kewell made his first Socceroos appearance as a 17-year-old in 1996 before going on to represent Australia at the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. Kuol staked his claim for a place in Graham Arnold's squad for Qatar.

"He's come in and settled in very well, all the boys love him," said Arnold. "He felt very relaxed when he went onto the pitch because he's already part of the family.

"When he went out there he did well, but this is not even the first step for the kid, he's got a hell of a long way to go. He's got to put on some beef and muscle.

"He's quick, obviously, but at the same time he needs improvement in his decision making and in his defensive efforts."

Mitchell Duke opened the scoring with a 54th minute header and Cummings scored from the penalty spot on his debut, as Australia handed New Zealand a defeat in their first game in front of their home fans for almost five years.

It was Kuol's pace that created the second opportunity, the Central Coast Mariners attacker tearing into the area before Riley McGree was denied by goalkeeper Oli Sail and Cummings saw his follow-up hit Liberato Cacace on the hand.

Scotland-born forward Cummings then stepped up to score from the spot and cap a strong second half showing by a largely second-string Australian outfit, as Arnold made wholesale changes to his line-up after Thursday's win over the same opposition.

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The All Whites, who missed out on a place at the World Cup when they lost in a playoff against Costa Rica in June, controlled the first half with Chris Wood, Matt Garbett and Elijah Just all going close.

But the best opening of the half fell to Tilio a minute before the interval, only for the Melbourne City striker to scuff his shot wide with the goal gaping.

Duke made amends nine minutes into the second half when he met Connor Metcalfe's centre with a strong downward header that gave Sail little chance and Cummings put the seal on the win with 10 minutes to go.

Australia will kick off their World Cup campaign, the country's fifth consecutive appearance at the finals, against defending champions France on Nov. 22 before facing Tunisia and Denmark.

Arnold acknowledged he will struggle to decide who will be included in his squad for those games but stressed that featuring regularly at club level will be key with the Socceroos unable to play again ahead of the finals.

"I'm going to reach out to Panadol to be our new sponsor because I'm going to have quite a number of headaches to fit in a 26-man squad," he added.

"Today's not the last day for players to get chosen, I'll make that clear.

"Because Qatar has a short lead-in of maybe seven days, the boys have got to go back to their clubs, they've got seven weeks, they've got to play, they've got to be fit.

"They've probably got to be the fittest they've ever been."