‘Everything happens for a reason’: Fornaroli reflects on debut AFC Asian Cup selection

Bruno Fornaroli spoke to the Melbourne media on Friday afternoon, following selection in Graham Arnold’s 26-player squad, expressing his gratitude for the family, teammates, and city, which have guided the striker toward Qatar

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As the Victory talisman fronted the bustling press conference, a number of chants could be heard in the background, not from fans, but from Fornaroli’s Victory teammates, including goalkeeper Paul Izzo's ‘Bruno’s on fire, your defence is terrified’. 

This adoration for the 36-year-old, is indicative of the support shown by his club since the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ squad announcement.

“For me it's great, because they feel happy for me. It's massive also because they are part of this, because of this team, who put in their time.”

“There is nothing better than to see your teammates celebrate something like that, but it is for you, and yet they celebrate and are happy.”

Former Socceroo defender Tony Popovic, now Melbourne Victory head coach, will be without the man who has provided almost 70% of the club’s goals this season, for more than a month.

Yet, Popovic gave his full blessing to the forward following selection, imparting his own advice, following 11 years and 58 international appearances with the Socceroos.

“Actually he wouldn't even talk about this [my club absence]. His reaction was to give me a big hug and say to me that I deserve it.”

“He told me to ‘go there and enjoy it’. ‘Do the same that you do here and enjoy your football and everything will be okay’.”

“So that's what you expect from our coach, and then, the support from the team, from the staff and the club. This, they give me every single day.”

Following a blistering start to the A-League Men’s season, which has seen the striker accrue 12 goals in 8 matches, the question of Bruno Fornaroli's selection, was not on the premise of ‘if’, but ‘when’.

“I was in my study when I saw the name on the phone, and then of course I was happy, excited. [Graham Arnold] made me feel welcome and he said to me, ‘congratulations for the great start’, but he told me that I have to keep improving.“

“My wife was close to me, the whole family was as well. My kids, my wife, they are all a part of this, in difficult moments they are there to support me, so they celebrated this as well. Its great that they're a part of this with the work that I do every single week, every weekend.”

(Image: Kelly Defina) Fornaroli receives international cap #618


National team boss Graham Arnold spoke earlier in the day on the subject of Fornaroli’s selection, with the Australian manager admitting that it would have been incredibly difficult to overlook the phenomenal start to the campaign, in which Fornaroli has achieved at Melbourne Victory.

READ MORE: Talking Points: Graham Arnold on AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ squad announcement

The most important thing with the Socceroos is form and Bruno’s done a fantastic job. He’s had a fantastic start to the season and it’s very, very hard to ignore.

“His body looks in fantastic shape and that’s the type of form you want from all the players in and around to be selected for the Socceroos. Bruno has done a fantastic job and he fully deserves his selection.”

“He definitely gives you something different and the four nines that I’ve picked there, that you can see; two younger ones to learn off the older ones. Having Mitchell Duke and Bruno there with Kusini Yengi and John Iredale. Bruno with that type of experience, can be great for the younger ones.”

The 36-year-old has grown immensely since arriving in the A-Leagues almost 10 years ago, embracing his roles as a leader and mentor within Melbourne Victory. The aim for Fornaroli in Qatar, will be to both achieve his own goal-scoring aspirations, while also to nurture the talented young crop of Australian forwards which have been selected alongside him.

“That doesn't change my role, I try to help the younger generation and pass to them everything that I did in my career, on how they can improve and become a better player. But I go there also to compete, to win a spot and play, that's what I want. I want to go there and win, of course.”

On the eve of the Melbourne Derby, where Fornaroli will face off against the side that took a gamble on him all those years ago, the striker found himself reflecting on the teams and city which have helped him achieve his dream to play international football.

“I'm the guy that always thinks that everything happens for a reason. I'm grateful for Melbourne City because they were the club to open the door, for me to play here in Australia, But now I'm on the other side [at Victory].”

“I gave my best there and I try to give my best here, every single day and every single weekend. I respect everyone and I think everyone knows this.”

“But as soon as you start the game, you will fight for your team you will fight for your club, and for your fans. It's always about winning first.” 

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ - Australia's Group B Matches

Australia v India
Date: Saturday, 13 January 2024
Venue: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Kick-off: 2:30pm local, 10:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Syria v Australia
Date: Thursday, 18 January 2024
Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha
Kick-off: 2:30pm local, 10:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Australia v Uzbekistan
Date: Tuesday, 23 January 2024
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Kick-off: 2:30pm local, 10:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

A PDF version of the Match Schedule can be found HERE