Players want to kick audacious Arzani up in the air, says Luongo

The audacious impact of Australia’s great bright hope Daniel Arzani is beginning to rub off on his teammates, with midfielder Massimo Luongo describing the teenager’s presence in Russia as "refreshing”.

The youngest player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup set tongues wagging with his goal and assist in a 17-minute cameo off the bench in the 2-1 warm-up win over Hungary at the weekend.

And it seems it isn’t just excitement-starved Socceroos fans who are hoping for another fix of the fearless 19-year-old when Australia begin their Group C campaign against thoroughbreds France in Kazan on Saturday.

Luongo, too, appears to have contracted the Arzani contagion, admitting he’s so good players want “to kick him up in the air.”

At 25, Luongo’s a relative veteran when compared to the breakthrough Socceroo in his midst.

And he permitted himself to wax lyrical over what he might bring to the green and gold if Bert van Marwijk gives him the match minutes his promise appears to demand.

“Having somebody with that ability and style of play is refreshing just to have around the camp,” he said.

“And you especially see that when he comes into games. Some of us aren’t young enough to do the stuff he does.

“Some of us don’t have the engines and some of us have been coached out of it a little bit.

“We’re all experienced enough to do the set things and the right things, which is the most important thing.

“But having somebody like that, even when they come on gets the fans off their feet a little bit.”

That was the reaction in Budapest when the Melbourne City prodigy replaced Robbie Kruse and set about delivering a compelling audition for meaningful match time against France, Denmark and Peru, assuming he maintains his current trajectory.

A turn of speed, roll of the hips and fearless shot from outside the box gave Australia the lead and then a delicious, crafted pass freed fellow substitute Jackson Irvine to help concoct a winner against Hungary.

Almost as bowled over by the sheer impertinence of the kid, Luongo continued: “Against Hungary it was quite a tactical game.

“Everybody wants to be solid, nobody wants to concede.

“Then you bring on a player like that and everybody makes a fuss and gets up out of their seats. That’s refreshing.”

Football pride dictates that fast, flashy youngsters must not be allowed to embarrass their elders, with Luongo articulating perfectly just how dangerous Arzani might be if he gets more chances this month.

“When you’re defending against somebody like that you don’t want to be beaten,” added the Queens Park Rangers mainstay.

“(If you are) you want to kick them up in the air.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Luongo was the new kid on the Socceroos block, also bringing fans to their feet in taking out player of the tournament honours as Australia won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

Now he’s locked in a battle to start against Paul Pogba and company, hoping to pip skipper Mile Jedinak for a spot in a three-man midfield.

He’s coming off the back of a breakout season at QPR and is confident of delivering at the World Cup, after just being along for the ride four years ago.

“I’m here to make a big impact,” he said. “I just want to give Australia the best chance to win games.

“We believe the win is there for the taking against France.

“They have world-class players, especially in midfield. But we’ve been working on ways to play.

“And we have to make sure we’re on it more than 100 per cent because of their individual talents.”

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Published 11 June 2018 at 8:49pm
By Dave Lewis