‘Let’s win the World Cup’: Bold ambition of rising Socceroos star
Alex Robertson means business.
That much is obvious, just 28 minutes into what will hopefully be a long and successful career with the Socceroos. But, in case it wasn’t clear enough, the Manchester City teenager made sure of it after his debut on Friday night.
Asked what his No.1 goal was with Australia, now he has officially committed to the green and gold rather than England, Scotland or Peru – the other nations clamouring for his allegiance – Robertson didn’t dither.
“Obviously, [we’ve] got to reach for the stars and win the World Cup,” he said.
“You never know what can happen,” he continued. “You’ve seen what they’ve [Socceroos] just done at the last one [World Cup], and for the next few years building up to it. I think we can do some really big things in the future.
New Socceroo Alex Robertson with his father Mark (left) and grandfather Alex, who both also played for Australia.Credit:Getty
“I mean, why not say it? Let’s try and win the World Cup. It’s a really good team, everyone’s together, the chemistry is really good, and I think we can achieve many things with this team and this group of boys.”
It’s a bold statement from anyone, particularly a 19-year-old from Maroubra, and it speaks to the growing sense of ambition building within the Socceroos, who have set themselves the goal of going one better at the World Cup in 2026 by improving on their record-breaking campaign in Qatar.
The promise lies in a new generation of players – perhaps even a golden one – which Graham Arnold is beginning to blend into the national team set-up. Robertson, who showed some brilliant touches on debut in a 3-1 win over Ecuador on Friday night, is one of the brightest prospects among them, and has long been touted as one of the world’s best young midfielders.
Australian fans have heard a lot about this prodigious talent, his time at Manchester United’s academy and his move across town to the Premier League champions, where he appears to be on the cusp of a senior debut for Pep Guardiola’s side this season – but before Arnold summoned him off the bench on Friday, few had actually watched him play.
Alex Robertson celebrates Australia’s 3-1 win over Ecuador with Maty Ryan.Credit:Getty
He looked right at home, which is perhaps to be expected of a player steeped in Socceroos heritage: his father, Mark, and grandfather, Alex, played for Australia and were among 30-odd friends and family at CommBank Stadium who watched him become a third-generation international.
“It’s a privilege to put on this shirt,” Robertson said. “My country, since I was young.
“It’s just a really special night for me and my family. It was something else. It wasn’t really just another game of football – there was emotion to it inside me, and I could feel it in the stadium as well. It was just a really happy moment.”
While Robertson has little match experience at the top level, he trains daily with Guardiola’s first team. The exposure to City’s world-class players has clearly refined his touch, and also his mentality. He was excellent in tight spaces, generally calm in possession, and was involved in the build-up to Australia’s third goal by Garang Kuol.
Alex Robertson (left) is training with the world’s best players, such as Erling Haaland, every day.Credit:Getty
He also nearly sparked a melee in the dying minutes when he went down in the Socceroos’ attacking area and the Ecuadorians took exception to what they perceived as an attempt to milk a penalty.
“He’s good, and he showed he gets amongst it – he’s not scared to get physical,” striker Mitchell Duke said. “That’s what we need. That’s part of our DNA. And that’s what we want moving forward with these young ones.”
Robertson’s lofty aims for Australia, despite seeming a bit brash on face value, align with a team that not afraid to dream big after shocking the world – and maybe even themselves – with their miraculous run in Qatar a few months ago. In more ways than one, the rising star has slotted in seamlessly.
“We showed we can mix it with the best in the last World Cup, so why not have those ambitions?” Duke said when told of Robertson’s declaration.
Alex Robertson’s debut for the Socceroos was impressive.Credit:Getty
Arnold’s job, aside from bringing youngsters such as Robertson through the national team set-up, is to try and keep everyone grounded, and fasten the lid on the building sense of hype about Australia’s new brood.
Aiden O’Neill was also impressive in his starting debut, but left-back Jordan Bos, who has had a breakout season in the A-League, was left on the bench. He looks a certainty to feature in some capacity in Tuesday night’s rematch in Melbourne.
But Arnold was coy when asked about the chances of 17-year-old Nestory Irankunda, who is in line to become the youngest Socceroo of all time.
“Let’s not get carried away, because these kids need a heap of experience and plenty of game time at their club,” Arnold said.
“The senior boys are doing it every week, and you can see the example that they’re setting to the young ones. But as I’ve said many, many times, I believe in Australian talent, and the Australian mentality with those kids, but it’s just about them getting the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Duke was delighted for Kuol getting on the scoresheet. The youngster is going through a difficult period at Scottish club Heart of Midlothian, where he is yet to make an impression after a loan move from Premier League side Newcastle United.
“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for the kid – very, very well deserved and great for his confidence, because he’s a little superstar, and he needed that, I think,” he said.
“That’s what this camp can be all about. It’s a great environment, especially for these young ones, and it gives them confidence. We all back them, we all believe in them and I’m so happy for him and hopefully, he builds off that now.”
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