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Young stars headline squad for Socceroos homecoming

Canberra, March 14 (IANS) Australia national football team coach Graham Arnold has named a squad brimming with young talent for World Cup homecoming friendlies against Ecuador.

The 26-player squad, which was announced on Tuesday, features four uncapped players and 20 who were part of Australia’s run to the round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The games against Ecuador – in Sydney on March 24 and Melbourne on March 28 – will be the Socceroos’ first since they lost 2-1 to Argentina in Qatar, a Xinhua report said.

In addition to serving as a celebration of the team’s achievements in Qatar, the matches will act as a launching pad for the Socceroos’ 2023 AFC Asian Cup and 2026 FIFA World Cup campaigns.

Tuesday’s squad includes Manchester City’s Alexander Robertson, who has impressed for the Premier League giants’ under-23 side.

Robertson represented England at youth level and is also eligible for Scotland and Peru, but has committed to playing for the Socceroos.

A debut against Ecuador would make the 19-year-old a third-generation Socceroo, with his father and grandfather having also played for the national team.

“I’ve probably been talking to him for over 18 months. It was a matter of one step at a time,” Arnold said.

Robertson will be joined in the squad by fellow potential debutants Jordan Bos, Aiden O’Neill, Joe Gauci and Brandon Borrello – all of whom play in the domestic A-League – as well as Germany-based Connor Metcalfe.

Adelaide United’s rising star Nestory Irankunda will also join the training camp. The 17-year-old sensation has not yet started a senior game, but has scored or assisted a goal in five of his past six appearances off the bench.

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