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Irankunda to debut for Socceroos against Bangladesh

3 minute read

Coach Graham Arnold has confirmed teenage winger Nestory Irankunda will debut for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

GRAHAM ARNOLD.
 GRAHAM ARNOLD. Picture: Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images

Nestory Irankunda will make his hotly-anticipated Socceroos debut against Bangladesh, with coach Graham Arnold lauding the teen sensation's quick adaptation to the national team environment.

On Wednesday, Arnold confirmed 18-year-old Irankunda would play in Thursday night's World Cup qualifier at Bashundhara Kings Arena in Dhaka.

Irankunda's debut should end scrutiny over the Bayern Munich-bound winger's international future.

"He's been very good," Arnold said on Wednesday.

"He's fit into the culture extremely well.

"He's hanging around a lot of senior boys which is good to see and he's been training very, very well - and you will see him on the park at some stage tomorrow."

Arnold wouldn't confirm whether Irankunda would start or come off the bench, but urged the teenager: "'To do that (what he can do) for me. Do that for the nation. Go out there and play to your strengths and your skills.'

"I'm not going to try and control him and get him to do things that is not his specialty. But what he's very, very good at is doing what Nestor does and we will fit that into our style of play, but also into our system.

"He just has a couple little things around, obviously, his defensive side of things (to work on).

"But at the same time, that's why we need the senior boys on the field, some of them, to help coach and lead those younger boys, to make them feel comfortable on the pitch."

Before his call-up, Irankunda, who missed out on the Olyroos' U23 Asian Cup squad, said he would consider a switch to Tanzania or Burundi if he continued to be overlooked.

"I think Nestor just wanted a headline for that one. And I think you guys (the media) did it for him," Arnold joked.

"No, he's not even spoken about it.

"We've had a chat and a laugh about it but the kid wants to be here.

"He wants to play for the Socceroos and he's said that his dream is to play for the Socceroos and I believe he's ready, prepared, and prepared for it."

Arnold appears destined to be asked a plethora of questions around Irankunda for years to come.

"I have to say I'm excited and happy that everyone is talking about the kid," Arnold said.

"At the end of the day, he is a great talent. But it's not always just about talent, it's also about where your career is going.

"Obviously, he's going to Bayern Munich, but it's also about how much hard work he puts in, and how much belief he has in himself to go to that next level - and the kid has got the qualities.

"But at the same time, it's maturing at that age and getting through this next four or five years that and it's all about playing football and developing him."

Arnold had no injury concerns and planned to use almost every player between Thursday's clash and next Tuesday's game against Palestine in Perth.

Joe Gauci will be starting goalkeeper on Thursday while Arnold hinted Kusini Yengi would start up top.

Australia are top of Group I and already into the next round of qualifying.

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