‘I think this team can shock the world’: Arnold looks to the future as Socceroos defeat Kuwait
It may have taken only 55 seconds for the Socceroos to find the net in their return to FIFA World Cup Qualifying action against Kuwait, however Graham Arnold believes his side is just getting started.
Playing for the first time in 567 days, Australia cruised to a 3-0 victory over Kuwait courtesy of goals from Mathew Leckie, Jackson Irvine and starting debutant Ajdin Hrustic.
The result takes Arnold’s side five points clear at the top of their World Cup Qualifying Group B. Impressively, a long absence from international football and difficult conditions did not stop the Socceroos from playing an imposing brand of football, and Arnold knows there is more to come.
"That (performance is) only 20 per cent of what you're going to get from this team," Arnold said.
"I expect a big improvement from the players - (they were) at times a little bit rusty and turned over possession a bit easy, but this team is only going to get greater and greater.
I think this team can shock the world and this group.
"We have talent. The talent just needs to be given an opportunity and, in the past, it hasn't.
"We have great talent and it's all about belief. When your belief is strong in something, then you can create miracles."
With debuts handed to talented trio Fran Karacic, Riley McGree and Kenny Dougall, it becomes clear how Australia's depth has only increased during the Socceroos' extended break.
And it is this kind of depth that Arnold believes will benefit the Socceroos throughout their campaign, particularly through the inclusion of younger players.
"I’ve said it many times and I’ll keep saying it, the strength of the Socceroos is the young kids," he explained.
"You have young kids in the camp to tap the older players on the shoulder, to give them a nudge and show them that they are here but also to help the pathways for the kids."
MATCH REPORT & HIGHLIGHTS: The Socceroos overcome Kuwait on international return
While uncapped players created a talking point, it was a player earning his fourth cap and a starting debut who stole the show.
In a Man of the Match display, Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Hrustic was superb throughout his 83 minutes on the pitch.
The 24-year-old not only won the Socceroos a penalty, but he also scored a brilliant free kick which bamboozled the Kuwaiti goalkeeper, crashed off the near post and into the back of the net from 25-yards out.
"Ajdin Hrustic is someone who has been on the radar but sort of has not fully been on the radar," Arnold explained.
"I had him in the camp last time and the kid was excellent.
"Going from Groningen to Eintracht Frankfurt, I hadn't seen him for 18 months but now just physically, his body is stronger and he has developed more as a footballer.
"I think he is a star for the next generation."
The Socceroos continue their packed schedule of FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Chinese Taipei on Monday, 7 June 2021 (8 June AEST) at 5:00am AEST.