Hrustic's star on rise as Roos beat Kuwait

·2-min read

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has labelled Ajdin Hrustic a star of the future after the young playmaker took centre stage in Australia's return to international football against Kuwait.

Thrust into the creative midfield role on his starting debut in the absence of Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy, Hrustic won a penalty, scored a delightful free kick and was classy throughout as the Socceroos sealed a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Arnold noted Hrustic, 24, was a "completely different player" since moving from Groningen in the Netherlands to Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt.

"I do believe that he's going to be one of the stars of the future, of the new generation," he said.

"He's got a great work ethic, a great professional kid, great kid overall, and he's a joy to work with."

The result takes Australia five points clear of Kuwait at the top of group B with a game in hand and one big step closer to the next round of World Cup qualifying.

After 567 days without an international match, the Socceroos showed their depth at Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium.

The "outstanding" Fran Karacic impressed on debut at right-back as Kenny Dougall and Riley McGree made their first international appearances in the second half.

James Holland started in defensive midfield for his first start since 2014 while Ryan McGowan returned to the starting XI for the first time since 2017.

Arnold hailed McGowan's "mentality" after Trent Sainsbury's back stiffness saw the Sydney FC defender play 90 minutes just two days after arriving in camp.

Australia took the lead in the opening minute when Mathew Leckie, wearing the captain's armband, rose between two defenders to head home Aziz Behich's looping ball to the back post.

In the 23rd minute, Hrustic earned an arguably soft penalty when Fahad Al Ebrahim was ruled to have clipped his ankles as he skipped through.

Martin Boyle's spot-kick was well saved by Sulaiman Abdulghafoor but a fleet-footed Jackson Irvine smashed home the rebound.

Kuwait improved in the second half but in the 66th minute Hrustic stepped up and buried a wonderfully-struck free kick in off the post to seal three points.

Dougall capped off his week, where he scored two goals in the League One play-off final at Wembley Stadium to secure Blackpool promotion to the English Championship, with a debut in the 64th minute while McGree was called upon in the 83rd.

The Socceroos will now turn their focus to the clash with Taiwan, which kicks off at 5am Tuesday AEST.

"That (performance is) only 20 per cent of what you're going to get from this team," Arnold said.

"I expect a big improvement from the players - (they were) at times a little bit rusty and turned over possession a bit easy but this team is only going to get greater and greater."