Introducing fresh faces and deepening Australia’s pool of talent was the primary objective of the Caltex Socceroos’ international friendly with Korea Republic last Friday.
With star names like Aaron Mooy and Mathew Ryan rested ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, Caltex Socceroos boss Graham Arnold assembled a much-changed roster – including 11 players from the Hyundai A-League – for the clash in Busan.
And despite Arnold’s side going down 1-0 to the Asian powerhouse courtesy of a late Hwang Ui-jo strike, it is clear that the Caltex Socceroos head coach will have players in Australia’s top tier in strong consideration when it comes to building his squad for Qatar 2022.
Five of the Caltex Socceroos’ starting XI played their domestic football in the Hyundai A-League last season (Andrew Redmayne, Rhyan Grant, Brandon O’Neill, Craig Goodwin and Mitch Duke), while Bristol City defender Bailey Wright was the only man in the starting line-up yet to feature in the competition.
Arnold gave four players their debut on the night, with Sydney FC duo Brandon O’Neill and Andrew Redmayne earning caps no. 602 and 603 respectively, alongside Freiburg attacker Brandon Borrello and Rotherham United flyer Ryan Williams.
And the two Sky Blues – who starred in the club’s Hyundai A-League 2019 Grand Final win over Perth Glory three weeks ago – turned in fine performances to boost their chances of involvement once the competitive matches get underway later this year.
O’Neill patrolled the midfield with the energy and incisiveness that has established the 25-year-old as one of the competition’s best in his position, while Gosford-born ‘keeper Redmayne pulled off the save of the night to deny Tottenham Hotspur star – and Korea Republic captain for the night – Son Heung-min late in the second half.
“It’s a moment I will remember forever,” Redmayne said. “I can’t thank the boys, the staff and Arnie enough. It’s been an amazing week.”
Meanwhile, Graham Arnold said: "Tonight we showed Australia, and we showed the world, that we don’t and we won’t rely on 12 or 13 players to get us to the next World Cup."
There were 11 Hyundai A-League players in Arnold's squad for last Friday's international friendly against Korea Republic. They were:
- Terry Antonis (Melbourne Victory)
- Joshua Brillante (Sydney FC)
- Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory)
- Craig Goodwin (Adelaide United)
- Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC)
- Brandon O’Neill (Sydney FC)
- Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets)
- Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC)
- Matthew Spiranovic (Perth Glory)
- Lawrence Thomas (Melbourne Victory)
- Mitch Duke (Western Sydney Wandererers)*
* Mitch Duke replaced Perth Glory forward Chris Ikonomidis in the squad, after Ikonomidis withdrew to undergo shoulder surgery.