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CommBank Stadium lights up Green & Gold as football fans welcome home Socceroos heroes on Friday night

The Socceroos play Ecuador on Friday night at CommBank Stadium, the match billed as something of a “Thank You” to fans who so lifted the team on their memorable run to the Round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

And for sure there’ll be mutual admiration from players to fans and back again. It was a brilliant journey for the nation and with a bit of luck Australia could’ve gone deeper – how we leapt in the air when Garang Kuol nearly slid one past Argentina goal-keeper Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez.

Today Kuol, 18, is but one of the storylines among those picked by Socceroos coach Graham Arnold. And while 20 of the 26-man squad were in Qatar, there’s plenty of interest in how uncapped young ones go.

Consider Alexander Robertson. The 19-year-old played junior football with Hakoah Sydney City East FC before heading to the UK to play youth team football at famous Manchester United.

He was then poached by cross-town rivals Manchester City, where he currently trains as a midfielder under Pep Guardiola and alongside superstars Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.

Robertson also represented England at several junior levels and qualifies to represent Scotland and Peru. Yet when Arnold called ahead of the Socceroos game against Ecuador on Friday night at CommBank Stadium, Robertson was all in for Australia.

A family matter, you see. If he gets on the field, Robertson will follow in the footsteps of father Mark (who debuted for the Socceroos in 2001) and grandfather Alex Snr (1984).

“To be a third generation to pull on that Socceroos jersey would be something special,” Robertson says.

On the players he’s largely meeting for the first time this week, Robertson says he can’t wait to be a part of what appears such a strong and happy camp.

“I feel like the whole group and the camp itself, looking from the outside, looks really strong. They all look ‘together’ as a team and you saw that at the World Cup.

“Me going in there, I can’t wait to go and play with good players. I just want to add my qualities and values to the team and then hopefully we can get some more success in the future,” Robertson says.

Fans will have a first peak at that future on Friday night at CommBank Stadium when the Socceroos campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2026™ in North America and Mexico begins.

While this match is being promoted as a homecoming, it’s three years from when Arnold will have a good idea of his squad. Thus every match in the green-and-gold is a chance to impress the gaffer.

Along with established stars jetting in from leagues around the world – names like Maty Ryan, Milos Degenek, Aaron Mooy and Mitch Duke were on front and back pages last year – Arnold has picked several uncapped players along with Robertson, notably Aiden O’Neill (24, Melbourne City), Joe Gauci (22, Adelaide United) and Jordan Bos (20, Melbourne City).

The exotically-named Nestory Irankunda – a goal-scoring winger from Adelaide United who turned 17 in February – has been brought into the squad as a “train-on” player. Arnold, though, has hinted Irankunda might spend some minutes on the field.

And if that happens and the Tanzanian teengager does half of what Kuol did for the A-Leagues All Stars in last year’s match against Barcelona, Arnold will have found another hot one.

And another great story of Australia.

Arnold says Irankunda has “special qualities”.

“For a kid at the age of 17 . . . the physique on him, the speed on him – it’s exciting.

“He’s coming in for an experience but that’s not ruling out game time,” Arnold says.

While important to his forward planning for 2026, for Arnold the match is also a chance to give back to fans. The Socceroos took the country on a trip in Qatar in 2022 and the players and officials were very aware of the buzz they created back home. Indeed they thrived on it.

“We saw the scenes back home in Australia during the World Cup and it would be wonderful to recreate that buzz and excitement during this upcoming series, where football fans can thank the players for their efforts and together, we can reminisce on a special moment in Australian sporting history,” Arnold says.

Confirmed! Socceroos’ Homecoming Match at CommBank Stadium in March

The Subway Socceroos will return home to Australia for the first time since their history-making feats at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ when they host Ecuador at CommBank Stadium in Sydney on Friday 24 March (8pm kick-off).

With most of the Subway Socceroos’ squad returning to their respective club sides around the world straight after the Round of 16 match against Argentina, the March FIFA International window will be the first time the squad has been able to come home to Australia to celebrate with family, friends, and fans.

“What the Subway Socceroos achieved in Qatar both on and off the pitch was history-making and truly united the nation like no other team could, so it’s fantastic Australian football fans finally get the opportunity to celebrate with the team on home soil with these two matches against Ecuador,” said Football Australia CEO James Johnson.

“Ecuador is a team that competed at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year and has good World Cup pedigree. These are the types of matches we will seek to secure for the Subway Socceroos in this next FIFA World Cup cycle and as the team moves towards the upcoming AFC Asian Cup.

“During the FIFA World Cup, we witnessed unrivalled scenes of support with live sites across the country including capacity crowds at Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour, and we look forward to celebrating together on Friday 24 March at CommBank Stadium.

“Football Australia would like to thank the NSW Government, through their tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, for their continued support of Australian football and our senior national football teams.

“Without the support of such committed event partners over many years, hosting international matches such as these would not be possible,” concluded Johnson.

Subway Socceroos’ Head Coach Graham Arnold said this homecoming series is an opportunity for Australian football and football fans to finally celebrate together the achievements of this team in Qatar.

“It’s fantastic we get this opportunity to gather again as a squad and reflect upon what we achieved at the

FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” Arnold said.

“Throughout the FIFA World Cup, we saw the incredible support the team was receiving back in Australia, and we are very much looking forward to finally celebrating together.”

Subject to availability, Arnold plans to call up a similar looking squad to that which represented Australia with such distinction in Qatar, while acknowledging that this series also presents a strong test on the park for the Subway Socceroos, whose quest to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026 starts this November and the AFC Asian Cup™ in early 2024.

“Selection for these two matches is our way of showing our gratitude for what the players sacrificed during the qualifying campaign and their achievements at the World Cup. As further reward, these players will be given the first opportunity to impress the coaching staff and get on the blank selection sheet as we move forward into the next cycle,” concluded Arnold.

NSW Minister for Tourism Ben Franklin said the match would be a fantastic opportunity for football fans to come together to cheer on their local heroes.

“Sydney is celebrating football in a big way, so it is fantastic that the Subway Socceroos will be playing their first home game since the FIFA World Cup 2022TM right here in the Harbour City,” Mr Franklin said.

“Sydney certainly has football fever, and we can’t wait to welcome the players, officials and fans to CommBank Stadium for this exciting match.”

NSW Minister for Sport Alister Henskens said NSW has a huge participation and supporter base for football.

“We recently welcomed home the CommBank Matildas for the Cup of Nations tournament across NSW and later this year Sydney will host the most games of any city for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023TM including

the Final,” Mr Henskens said.

“International football is front of mind for Sydney and NSW right now and it is a privilege to see our national teams play in our state, uniting fans in celebration and inspiring players of all levels and demographics.”

Tickets for Subway Socceroos v Ecuador in Sydney will go on sale to Football Account holders at 9am (AEDT) Friday 3 March, and to the General Public from 9am Monday 6 March. Tickets will start at $10 for Juniors and $20 for Adults with Concessions starting at $15.

Football Australia can confirm that $1 from every ticket sold for both matches will be donated to the CommBank Pararoos. The CommBank Pararoos are Australia’s national men’s football team for athletes with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, or symptoms acquired from stroke.


Match Day One

Date: Friday 24 March

Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney

Time: 8pm (AEDT)


Broadcast: Live on 10 in Sydney and Melbourne, 10 Bold in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth, and on 10 Play and Paramount+.

Match Day Two

Date: Tuesday 28 March

Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne

Time: 7:30pm (AEDT)


Broadcast: Live on 10 Bold, 10 Play and Paramount+

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