CANBERRA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Australia national football team coach Graham Arnold has declared his team is on the verge of a new golden generation.
The Socceroos will play Ecuador in two friendlies on Friday and Tuesday nights in Sydney and Melbourne, respectively.
The matches will mark the first outings for the Socceroos since they were knocked out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the round of 16 by eventual champions Argentina, and the first since Arnold signed a new four-year contract that will make him the country's longest-serving manager.
Speaking ahead of the friendlies -- which will act as a homecoming to celebrate the Socceroos' best ever World Cup performance in Qatar -- Arnold said the talent emerging in Australian football was a major reason in his decision to stay on as coach.
"We have the right to be excited," Arnold was quoted by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Friday.
"It's the reason I stayed on," Arnold said.
"I truly believe that with the kids coming through and the experienced players at a good age we've got a good blend of players. It's about giving them an opportunity over the next six months."
Of Arnold's 26-player squad for the two friendlies, 14 are aged 24 and under, with nine playing their club football in Europe.
Only two of the 14 have earned more than 10 international caps while another five -- including Manchester City's Alex Robertson and Adelaide United wonderkid Nestory Irankunda -- could make their debuts against Ecuador.
Irankunda was called up to the squad as a replacement for the ill Riley McGree after scoring four goals in seven appearances off the bench in the A-League Men competition since the start of February.
If handed a debut, Irankunda would become the youngest Socceroo in history, having turned 17 on February 9. ■