Graham Arnold names inexperienced Socceroos squad for Argentina friendly

<span>Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP</span>
Photograph: Mark Evans/AAP

Alessandro Circati, the 19-year-old Parma defender, has earned a first call-up to the Socceroos squad after declaring his allegiance to Australia ahead of the friendly against Argentina in a selection coup for coach Graham Arnold.

Arnold on Tuesday named an inexperienced 23-man squad for next week’s one-off match against the world champions, to be played at Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium, as he looks to run the rule over some new faces as part of his team’s ongoing preparations for the Asian Cup in January and beyond.

Circati has been called into the squad for the first time along with uncapped Melbourne City goalkeeper Thomas Glover while Denis Genreau and Gianni Stensness, both 24, have been recalled following good club form for Toulouse and Viking respectively.

Related: Socceroos lock in friendly against world champions Argentina in China

Months of conversations with Circati finally paid off for Arnold, who said the youngster’s decision to turn his back on Italy had in part been inspired by the Socceroos’ run to the last 16 at last year’s World Cup.

“He had a big decision to make, whether it was Italy or Australia, but about two weeks ago he rang me up and said he wants to play for Australia,” Arnold said. “His heart told him and he believes he wants to play for Australia. His passion straight away was great. I asked ‘are you ready?’ He said ‘100%’. It’s great to get him on board.”

A host of other players with limited international experience, including Jordan Bos, Joe Gauci, Joel King and Ryan Strain, will get a chance to impress Arnold on the trip to China, with 15 of the 23 names on Arnold’s list boasting just 49 caps between them.

The door has been opened to them due in part to a series of enforced absences, with the likes of Aziz Behich, Jason Cummings, Miloš Degenek, Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine, Aaron Mooy and Bailey Wright all ruled out through injury.

Arnold said there was no better test than playing Argentina straight after a World Cup, and that the fixture was proof of how highly regarded Australian football has become at the international level.

“It’s a younger squad but I’m also looking with one eye on the World Cup in 2026 and getting players ready for that,” Arnold said. “I don’t believe there’s a better way to test them out than against the world champions.”

Circati, who was born in Italy but moved to Perth at the age of one, has turned out twice for Italy U-20s but opted to pursue a senior international career with the Socceroos after catching Arnold’s eye.

Arnold has courted Circati over the past 12 months as the coach looks to shore up a number of future prospects with dual nationality, including the Roma midfielder Cristian Volpato.

Sydney-born Volpato, who has also represented Italy at youth level, was not named by Arnold on Tuesday, as the exciting young prospect continues to weigh up his international allegiance.

Arnold will travel to Europe in August for face-to-face conversations with Volpato and Mohamed Toure, the Guinea-born Reims striker, who is also on Australia’s radar.

Circati, though, could find himself lining up against Lionel Messi in the Socceroos’ first outing since two friendlies against Ecuador in March, in a re-match of the World Cup last-16 game against the eventual world champions.

Circati was on Perth Glory’s books as a youngster and featured for the club at NPL level before he left for Europe and trialled with Leicester and Reading. Parma signed him in 2021 and he has since made 14 appearances for the two-time Uefa Cup winners, who narrowly failed to reach the Serie B promotion playoff final at the weekend with defeat over two legs to Cagliari.

He joins the likes of Alex Robertson, who represented England at youth level and is also in the squad for the Argentina game, in pledging allegiance to Australia.

Next Thursday’s one-off friendly represents a rare occasion – the Socceroos last played in China in 2008, as part of their World Cup qualifying campaign, and the upcoming match will be the first time since early 2020 that a senior Australian national sporting team has competed in China.

Australia squad: Mat Ryan, Tom Glover, Joe Gauci; Nathaniel Atkinson, Jordan Bos, Alessandro Circati, Joel King, Kye Rowles, Gianni Stensness, Harry Souttar, Ryan Strain; Keanu Baccus, Cammy Devlin, Denis Genreau, Ajdin Hrustic, Riley McGree, Connor Metcalfe, Aiden O’Neill, Alex Robertson; Brandon Borrello, Mitch Duke, Jamie Maclaren, Mathew Leckie.