Though the Socceroos may not take their first step on the road to Qatar 2022 until next week; Thursday night saw a number of young men that now call Australia home commence their own journey that they hope will end up at football’s biggest stage.
Representing the young nation of South Sudan in the first leg of their in their 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in the opening round of CAF World Cup qualifying, Melbourne Victory’s Kenny Athiu highlighted a strong contingent of ‘Bright Stars’ with connections to the Australian game present in the Sudanese city of Omdurman.
Former Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City prospect Majak Mawith, who ended the 2019 season as the Port Melbourne number one in NPL Victoria, started and played a full 90 minutes in goal for the South Sudanese whilst defender Peter Deng, who began the 2019 NPL Victoria season with Heidelberg United before moving to ambitious Victorian State League One side Caroline Springs George Cross, also played a full 90 minutes.
Mathiang Mathiang, who has spent time with Heidelberg, Port Melbourne, Brunswick City in Melbourne and West Australian side Stirling Lions, also saw a full game.
Former Perth Glory midfield prospect Jackson Morgan, who has since gone on to have spells with West Australian sides Floreat Athena, Perth SC and Victorian side Hume City and currently plays for Stirling Lions, logged the first 44 minutes before being subbed off for Geelong SC player Denis Yongule.
Introduced in the 54th minute, Athiu soon proved pivotal for his side as they pressed hard to erase a one-goal deficit courtesy of Equatorial Guinea’s Luis Meseguer’s 35th-minute opener; laying in the cross that forced defender Niko Kata to turn the ball into his own net.
The 27-year-old, who signed with Victory after bursting onto the scene with Heidelberg in NPL Victoria, served as a true game-changer for his side; helping to swing momentum in the South Sudanese’s favour almost immediately after his addition.
Now, with the scores locked at 1-1 after the first leg, South Sudan will travel to the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo in the Equatorial Guinean city of Malabo on Monday for the return fixture; with the winner of the two-legged fixture set to qualify for the second round of CAF qualifying in 2020.
HEADER IMAGE CREDIT: FIFATV