Bruno Fornaroli (l) has been rewarded for his hot A-League Men form with Socceroos selection. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • soccer

Fornaroli, three uncapped players in Socceroos squad

George Clarke December 22, 2023

Graham Arnold says Bruno Fornaroli can give the Socceroos a unique point of difference after the veteran striker’s irresistible club form landed him a ticket to the Asian Cup in Qatar.

The Uruguayan-born forward has bagged 12 goals in eight games for Melbourne Victory in the A-League Men this season and looks set to add to his two caps after being named in a Socceroos squad containing three potential debutants on Friday. 

The 36-year-old Fornaroli is the exception in an otherwise youthful squad named by Arnold that highlights the regeneration the national team has undergone since the 2022 World Cup.

Only 12 players from the team which reached the round of 16 last year have been retained, with fitness concerns denying Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil and Jamie Maclaren call-ups.

 Patrick Yazbek has forced his way into Graham Arnold’s Socceroos squad for the Asian Cup. Image by Jeremy Ng/AAP PHOTOS 

Injuries have also prevented Brandon Borrello and Ryan Strain from being selected, while Portsmouth’s Alex Robertson and Parma defender Alessandro Circati have been allowed to stay with their clubs with a view to calling them up for Olympic qualifiers in April. 

Fornaroli is the headline inclusion, however, with his blistering form for Victory earning him a second coming with the national team.

“I will go there to compete, to try to win a spot to play and of course that’s what I want – to go there and win,” Fornaroli said. 

“We have another two important games before I go to the camp and then of course we’ll have the opportunity to chat and see how everyone feels.”

The experienced striker’s two previous games came in the March 2022 window, one of the darkest hours of Arnold’s tenure when the Socceroos missed out on automatic qualification for the World Cup.

“The most important thing for the Socceroos is form and Bruno has had a fantastic start to the season,” Arnold said. 

“It’s very hard to ignore and his body looks in fantastic shape, he’s in the kind of form you want all players to be in.

“He definitely gives you something different it gives us more variety in the frontline as well, and Bruno’s experience can be great for the younger ones.” 

 Graham Arnold (l) is happy with the potential in the group chosen for the Asian Cup. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Fornaroli, along with Kusini Yengi and Germany-based striker John Iredale, will likely act as back-up to Australia’s leading forward Mitchell Duke.

Iredale, who plies his trade in the 2 Bundesliga with Wehen Wiesbaden, is one of three uncapped players in Arnold’s squad along with Bolton Wanderers defender Gethin Jones and Norway-based midfielder Patrick Yazbek.

Rightback Jones, 28, was born in Perth but raised in the UK and has won youth caps for Wales. 

“Another one,” Arnold exclaimed, referencing the shrewd recruitment of dual-eligible players that has become a hallmark of his tenure.

“He wasn’t hard to convince but it takes time to get through FIFA regulations, he would’ve been in the last camp … I recently watched him in the UK and he was very impressive.”

Meanwhile, Arnold claimed captain Mat Ryan is on track to feature in Australia’s tournament opener against India on January 13 despite the surprise inclusion of one-cap goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas alongside Adelaide’s Joe Gauci.

Western Sydney Wanderers No.1 Thomas hasn’t featured for the Socceroos in over two years but now appears the most likely option should Ryan fail to recover from a fractured cheekbone in time. 

“Maty’s bought a beautiful mask, but I believe he’ll be fine,” Arnold added.

“Lawrence Thomas has been the best goalkeeper in the A-League for the last two years. 

“If Maty doesn’t recover then we need to have that type of experienced goalkeeper there and Lawrence can take over.”

Goalkeepers: Joe Gauci, Mat Ryan (c), Lawrence Thomas.

Defenders: Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Jordy Bos, Cameron Burgess, Thomas Deng, Gethin Jones*, Lewis Miller, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar.

Midfielders: Keanu Baccus, Jackson Irvine, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe, Aiden O’Neill, Patrick Yazbek*.  

Forwards: Martin Boyle, Mitchell Duke, Bruno Fornaroli, Craig Goodwin, John Iredale*, Sam Silvera, Marco Tilio, Kusini Yengi. 

*denotes uncapped