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Garang Kuol: Australia's teenage World Cup talent bound for Newcastle

Garang Kuol: Australia's teenage World Cup talent bound for Newcastle

November 20, 2022 (AFP)

Garang Kuol only turned 18 in September and has never started a league match, but the forward finds himself touted as Australia's dangerman ahead of their match against France at the World Cup on Tuesday.

Kuol's path to Qatar and soon the English Premier League -- he will move in January to high-flying Newcastle -- is one of the feel-good stories of the World Cup.

Kuol was born in Egypt after his family fled conflict in Sudan and he moved to Australia with them as a refugee.

His siblings include brother Alou, 21, who is with Stuttgart.

The younger Kuol's ascent to the World Cup has been swift -- he only signed his first professional contract with Central Coast Mariners in June and made his Australia debut two months ago.

But don't expect him to be overawed in Qatar, starting when Australia open their campaign with a daunting clash against holders France.

"The World Cup is the biggest stage so that's just where I want to prove myself," Kuol, who sealed a move from the Mariners to Newcastle in September for an undisclosed fee, said in Doha.

Asked if he had nutmegged any of his team-mates in training in Qatar, the teenager smiled and with a quiet confidence said: "No, not yet."

The youngster followed brother Alou in joining the Mariners academy and was playing with their under-18s when he was 16.

He made his A-League debut in April this year, underling his rich potential by scoring with almost his first touch off the bench.

"Remember the name!" his team tweeted.

He has featured for the Mariners 13 times in A-League matches -- all off the bench -- and scored six goals. He also has three assists.

After a whirlwind few months Kuol, who has been deployed on both wings and in a more central role up front, made his debut as a substitute for Australia in a pre-World Cup friendly against New Zealand in September. 

At 18 years and 10 days, he was the youngest Socceroo since former Liverpool and Leeds star Harry Kewell in 1996.

The move to Newcastle came just five days later.

Make something of yourself

Kuol is not expected to start against France but another super-sub appearance looks highly likely, especially if Australia are chasing the game.

For a team lacking the stars and flair of previous tournaments, Kuol could become coach Graham Arnold's trump card.

The teenager signed off from Mariners duty earlier this month by scoring twice after coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 home defeat.

His first was a penalty and minutes later he arrowed the ball into the top corner from an acute angle. 

Kuol is clearly a teenager in a hurry, but he took a moment in front of the world's media to remember those who helped get him to the World Cup.

"People like my coach at Mariners, my parents, my older brothers, these two next to me," he said at Australia's training camp, nodding in the direction of Awer Mabil and Thomas Deng, team-mates who have followed a similar life journey.

"They all play a part in the way I carry myself and take everything in."

Kuol has also not forgotten the path that took him to Australia, then the World Cup and, soon, the Premier League.

"Being able to represent different heritages and be that role model to many kids and show them that hard work can get you somewhere is something that I hold close to me," he said.

"And I just want to prove to kids, especially South Sudanese kids around the world, that you can make something of yourself if you just work." 

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