Match Preview: Australia v Bangladesh

The Subway Socceroos open their qualifying campaign against Bangladesh on Thursday evening (8:00pm AEDT), at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

The clash signifies the start of an arduous three-year quest, with the aim being qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America. 

Graham Arnold’s squad have been thoroughly tested in preparation for their qualifying campaign, with recent friendlies against New Zealand, Mexico, England, and world champions Argentina. 

In their most recent friendlies, the green and gold went toe-to-toe for ninety minutes with European finalists England at Wembley Stadium, before reclaiming the ‘Soccer Ashes’, with a comprehensive victory over neighbours New Zealand.

Despite the valuable experience against strong opposition, Australia had not played in front of their own fans since Ecuador toured back in March, with Thursday’s clash being the first competitive match on home soil in over six hundred days.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 14: Ashley Maynard-Brewer, Keanu Baccus, Ryan Strain and Brandon Borrello of the Socceroos arrive during a Socceroos training session at Lakeside Stadium on November 14, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Thursday’s opponents, Bangladesh, have already kicked off their qualifying campaign, defeating regional rivals The Maldives 3-2, over two legs. The 183rd ranked team frequently over-perform their leaderboard position, having become regulars in AFC’s second round of qualifiers, with the side hoping to reach the final round for the first time.

‘The Bengal Tigers’ star player is currently midfielder and captain Jamal Bhuyen. Bangladesh’s all-time appearance holder, Bhuyen shares a relationship with Subway Socceroos captain Maty Ryan, having spent time at Danish giants FC Copenhagen. Born and raised in Denmark’s capital city, the 33-year-old will be familiar with the playing styles of Australia’s European based players.

The two sides have previously met in FIFA World Cup qualifying, having faced off twice back in 2015, following our Subway Socceroos’ AFC Asian Cup triumph.

The first match was hosted in Perth, where a brace from Tom Rogic and goals from Nathan Burns, Aaron Mooy, and Mathew Leckie completed a 5-0 rout. The only player from the starting line-up to remain in the current squad is Massimo Luongo. The return leg in Dhaka was just as fruitful for the Subway Socceroos, with all-time top-scorer Tim Cahill bagging a hat-trick during a 4-0 victory.

Graham Arnold has selected a similar squad to October’s friendlies, remaining firm on his selection stance, to pick players who regularly appear for their club sides. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 14: Brandon Borrello of the Socceroos in action during a Socceroos training session at Lakeside Stadium on November 14, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The newest inclusion is Portsmouth forward Kusini Yengi, who has been rewarded for a strong start to life at Portsmouth. Familiar with the national team set-up, the 24-year-old recently represented the Subway Olyroos, including four appearances at the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™.

Following the start of the A-League Men’s campaign, striker Jamie Maclaren and goalkeeper Joe Gauci regain their spot in the 23-man squad.

Ashley Maynard-Brewer also returns to the fold, with the 24-year-old shot-stopper quickly establishing himself as a mainstay in the Subway Socceroos squad, despite an absence during the October friendlies.

Those missing out on selection through injury include winger Mathew Leckie, Middlesbrough midfielder Riley McGree, and Hearts full-back Nathaniel Atkinson.

Thursday will also be a landmark night for Graham Arnold, who will manage his 59th international, breaking Frank Farina’s record for most Australian games managed.

The 60-year-old’s commemoration, as a player, assistant, Olyroos manager, and senior men’s international manager will hopefully be a motivator for his team, as they search for an opening day win to kick-start their qualification journey.