The World Cup has arrived and there are six Magpies playing in the group stages: Kieran Trippier, Nick Pope, and Callum Wilson for England, Garang Kuol is with Australia, Fabian Schar is part of the Swiss team, and Bruno plays for Brazil.
Here’s a recap of all that went on Tuesday, Nov. 22, with more updates to come in the following days as games keep getting played with the WC kicking off next Sunday.
Garang Kuol (Australia)
Match: AUS vs France (World Cup)
No mercy was shown by the Frenchmen on their World Cup debut against Australia on Tuesday evening. France demolished the Aussies by a 4-1 final result in a come-from-behind win that, truth be told, was never much in doubt.
Australia got the better of Les Bleus and even got ahead on the scoreboard thanks to a nine-minute effort that ended with the ball inside the French goal after Craig Goodwin connected on a Mathew Leckie low cross from the right side of the pitch. That didn’t age very well for the Socceroos, though, as Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud put France ahead in a span of five minutes with goals scored in the 27th and 32nd minutes respectively.
Kylian Mbappe and Giroud, for the second time, put up two more goals for France in the second-biggest win by a team in this WC to date, wrapping it all up with 20 minutes left to be played. The trouncing, though, gave Australia’s manager Graham Arnold all of the reasons to help Garang Kuol add another milestone to his already-brilliant resume: playing on a World Cup stage as a teenager.
Kuol entered the pitch in the 73rd minute and spent 25 rounds of the clock on the Qatari grass between the regular and additional time added to the 90 minutes. Truth be told, Kuol just touched the ball five times and failed at dribbling his opponent the only time he tried to, but he completed two of three passes and intercepted a ball.
It could have been better, it could have been worse, but one and only one thing is true and that is that Kuol will be joining Newcastle next summer with a WC cap under his belt.
Kuol became the youngest Socceroos player to ever appear in a World Cup with Australia. Not bad. He is also the ninth-youngest player overall to make a debut at the largest of international stages. In this year’s competition, only Germany’s Youssoufa Moukoko is younger than Kuol.
If Kuol scores a goal for Australia through the tournament—no matter at what point it happens—he will become the second-youngest player to do so only behind Pele. Just saying.
Saudi Arabia National Team (KSA)
Match: KSA vs Argentina (World Cup)
Not a name, in particular, to highlight here because, well, there are no Saudi players in the Magpies squad at this point. That said, NUFC owners must have enjoyed a nice morning yesterday as the KSA went on to defeat favorites Argentina pulling off the ultimate upset of this year’s tournament and one of the biggest ones in the history of football.
KSA 2, Argentina 1, a win coming from behind. Uh, oh, flex on the Albiceleste.
Now, seriously, it’s going to be hard for any of the Saudi Arabia players to make a move to any country outside of their homeland. Yes, every player in the KSA World Cup squad plays football in Saudi Arabia. That includes prolific goalscorer (17) Salem Al-Dawsari or most-capped (72) defender Yasser Al-Shahrani.
Media outlet and rumor hub Transfermartk only has five players part of the KSA World Cup list valued at €1.5m or more. Sultan Al-Ghannam tops the list with a market value of €2.5m. He plays right-back at Al-Nassr FC of the Saudi Pro League and he is 28 years old.
Newcastle United’s new owners have made it clear that they will make an effort to grow the following of the team in Saudi Arabia, so it’s not out of the equation to see at least one player from the country join the club over the next few months and years. Personally, I have zero doubts that will inevitably happen at some point, and while there won’t be any sort of flashy signing coming from the KSA, it is not crazy to think about one or two youngsters joining the Magpie family at least to test Newcastle’s training facilities while with the underage squads.
You never know who will become the next Kuol.