Athiu keeps FIFA World Cup dream alive with assist on international debut

Kenny Athiu has gone from scoring goals in pre-season for Melbourne Victory last week, to helping keep South Sudan’s World Cup dream alive on his international debut on Thursday morning (AEST).

After impressing in Victory’s pre-season, Athiu earned a call-up to South Sudan – his country of birth – for the two-legged tie against Equatorial Guinea in qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2022.

And the 27-year-old made a significant impact on his debut, setting up his nation’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

With South Sudan trailing 1-0 at home, Athiu came on nine minutes into the second half and went on to provide the cross which was turned into his own net by defender Niko Kata 15 minutes from time.

Athiu also went close to finding the net himself with an acrobatic attempt that blazed just over the crossbar.

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That result saw South Sudan end a seven-game losing streak and keeps their hopes of progressing alive.

The two nations meet again in Equatorial Guinea at 2am on Monday, September 9 (AEST) as they look to make it to the second round of CAF qualifying.

South Sudan – known as the ‘Bright Stars’ have only been a FIFA member since 2012, less than a year after they gained recognition as an independent nation.

They are attempting to qualify for their first ever major international tournament after falling at the first hurdle on the road to Russia 2018.

South Sudan are currently ranked 169 in the world, 30 places below their current opponents, who reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.

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