Kusini Yengi
Ex-Western Sydney Wanderers striker Kusini Yengi has secured his first Socceroos call up. Image by Jeremy Ng/AAP PHOTOS
  • soccer

Yengi earns debut Socceroos call-up, veterans dropped

Anna Harrington November 9, 2023

Coach Graham Arnold has declared the time for experimentation is over as the Socceroos start their qualification journey towards the 2026 World Cup.

Uncapped striker Kusini Yengi has earned a maiden Socceroos call-up for this month’s World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine after a goal-laden switch to England.

But apart from Yengi, Ashley Maynard-Brewer is the only other untested player with Arnold keeping a largely consistent squad from recent friendlies against New Zealand, England and Mexico.

Jamie Maclaren and Joe Gauci have been recalled, while veterans Milos Degenek and Andrew Redmayne have been dropped along with Tom Glover and forward Awer Mabil.

Arnold is unlikely to play around with tactics in the two games, against Bangladesh at AAMI Park next Thursday then Palestine in Kuwait five days later.

“It’s a World Cup qualifier,” Arnold said.

“Experimenting is over – (it was) in that type of friendly games that we had.

“Now, it’s all about getting the tactics right and getting the players on the pitch and the performance right and winning those games at all costs.”

Yengi, 24, came into calculations for a debut after successfully adapting to life with Portsmouth.

Arnold had pencilled Yengi in for the September window friendly against Mexico only for the talented striker to be sidelined with an ankle injury.

The former Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United frontman has five goals in eight games for Pompey after making the move overseas during the A-League Men off-season.

Ahead of January’s Asian Cup, Yengi gives the Socceroos an extra dimension up front.

“There are four No.9s (Yengi, Maclaren, Mitch Duke and Brandon Borrello). I’ve gone for more extra strikers for these two games, different styles as well,” Arnold said.

“Yengi’s doing exceptionally well at Portsmouth.

“He gives us something completely different in size and speed and I think that’s important for these two games.”

Graham Arnold.
 Coach Graham Arnold has unveiled the Socceroos squad for the start of World Cup qualifying. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

Goalkeeper Redmayne has had shaky form for Sydney FC, while defender Degenek has been used sparingly by Red Star Belgrade.

Arnold said the decision to drop Redmayne was goalkeeping coach John Crawley’s call, but insisted that didn’t mean his international career was over.

Riley McGree, Mathew Leckie and Nathaniel Atkinson are the only sidelined regulars for the November window, where Australia will be expected to pick up two wins.

Arnold said the likes of in-form Victory striker Bruno Fornaroli couldn’t be considered as Arnold had to select his long list on October 16, before the A-League Men season had started.

Arnold also indicated Adelaide United teen sensation Nestory Irankunda wasn’t yet ready for a senior call-up.

“He’s got some great qualities,” he said.

“It’s just probably getting more consistency with those qualities.”


Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan (capt), Joe Gauci, Ashley Maynard-Brewer*

Defenders: Aziz Behich, Jordy Bos, Cameron Burgess, Alessandro Circati, Lewis Miller, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar, Ryan Strain

Midfielders: Keanu Baccus, Jackson Irvine, Massimo Luongo, Connor Metcalfe, Aiden O’Neill

Forwards: Brandon Borrello, Martin Boyle, Mitch Duke, Craig Goodwin, Jamie Maclaren, Sam Silvera, Kusini Yengi*

* uncapped