For now they are the class of ’21… but a potentially life-changing prize awaits some of Australia’s brightest young talents.
With a clutch of young players set to be given the chance to shine when the A-League kicks off on December 27, there are predictions that a handful could force their way onto a fast track to the next World Cup.
It means that every A-League game becomes a potential audition for a place on the international stage, with an Olympics and a World Cup lying ahead in the next two years.
As the new season unfolds, Socceroos and Olyroos boss Graham Arnold will be scanning the ranks of A-League aspirants for those he thinks could announce themselves in such a big way that they could become part of his thinking.
Arnold namechecked a group of players whose A-League form has already earned them a place in the Olympic squad – including Nathanial Atkinson and Aiden O’Neill (Melbourne City), Denis Genreau (Macarthur FC), Ryan Strain (Adelaide United), Joel King and Trent Buhagiar (Sydney FC), Cameron Devlin and Rene Piscopo (Wellington Phoenix) and Lachlan Wales (Western United).
Now Arnold wants others to be inspired by Socceroo Daniel Arzani, who made such an explosive debut for Melbourne City in 2018 that he was playing at the World Cup less than six month later.
“I believe that after the Olympics, there’ll be six or seven youngsters pushing to be involved in the World Cup in Qatar in 2022,” said Arnold.
“That’s how important this year is in the kids’ careers. After every successful Olympics – by which we usually mean qualifying – around six or seven players will go on to earn more than 50 caps for the Socceroos.
“The kids are there (in the A-League), and this is a good development period for the next Socceroos. I really believe some of them will be banging on the door for Qatar.”
With a new wave of young Australian coaches set to put their faith in homegrown talent, Arnold believes that fans will have their heads turned by players they may not yet have even heard of.
But first those players have to seize the opportunities they get, and prove that faith in youth can produce results.
“It’s all about the kids playing and taking their opportunity,” Arnold said. “I think there’ll be more opportunities for the youngsters this season – partly because of the reduction in the salary cap but also because of an increase in talent, and that will make for an exciting A-League.
“There’ll be names who the fans won’t know who’ll come through and be household names by the end of the season.
“Then you look towards the international side of things, and it’s important (in order to be in that frame) that the kids get game time.”
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