Thomas Deng admits he feels comfortable in Caltex Socceroos camp, thanks in no small part to the South Australian connection in Graham Arnold’s squad.
Deng, along with close friend Awer Mabil, Adelaide United winger Craig Goodwin and Germany-based attacker Brandon Borrello, all started their football journey in the City of Churches.
While their careers have taken different paths since then, they have been reunited as part of the national squad to take on Korea Republic in Busan on Friday night (AEST).
“I’ve known Awer for a long time and obviously it’s good to have Craig and Brandon in the camp as well,” Deng said.
“It kind of brings back the old days.
“It’s good to have them in camp, you feel comfortable…the SA [South Australian] boys are all doing well.”
Deng’s relationship with Mabil is especially tight, having been bonded by football in Adelaide’s northern suburbs a decade ago.
Both South Sudanese refugees, the duo attended the same school and played for the same local club, before, remarkably, going on to make their Caltex Socceroos debuts together last year against Kuwait.
“I’ve known Awer for over 10 years. We went to school together, lived in the same neighbourhood and were kicking the ball at the park every day after school,” Deng said.
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“Now having him here I feel a lot more comfortable. I’ve got my mate here and it’s good to see him doing well.”
Deng is also doing pretty well for himself, earning a spot back in Arnold’s plans after another solid season with Melbourne Victory in the Hyundai A-League.
The 22-year-old, who can also play as a centre-back, has been training on the right-side of defence and is battling with Sydney FC star Rhyan Grant for a start against the world no.37 ranked Korea Republic.
“The competition with Rhyan is a tough one because he’s had a fantastic season and they [Sydney FC] have just come off winning the championship,” Deng said.
“For me, the main thing is just trying to learn as much as I can in this camp and also in the system Arnie wants me to play.
“As long as I can contribute to the team, that’s all that matters to me.”
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