Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has pulled a selection shock after calling up 34-year-old Uruguayan Bruno Fornaroli for crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Fornaroli is one of five uncapped players named in the 27-man squad joining Nick D’Agostino, Kye Rowles, Gianni Stensness and Nathaniel Atkinson who will all hope to make their Socceroos debut.
Following the bombshell selection of Fornaroli, many football fans, including this author, were left wondering how exactly does he qualify for the Socceroos?
Fornaroli played for Uruguay as a 17-year-old at the 2003 South American U20 Championships, which under previous rules, meant that he was tied to representing Uruguay for life.
In 2020, world football governing body FIFA made numerous changes to player’s national eligibility criteria.
Crucially for the Socceroos and Fornaroli, the changes included allowing a player who represented one country’s junior team while aged 20 or younger – but not a senior side – to switch allegiances to a second country.
The requirement was that a player must have resided in his new country for at least five years.
Fornaroli arrived in Australia in August 2015 after signing with Melbourne City in the A-League and has been here ever since, meaning he fit the criteria set by FIFA to represent the Socceroos.
Fornaroli’s Australian citizenship has been granted and Football Australia has submitted paperwork to FIFA requesting to switch Fornaroli’s international football allegiance from Uruguay to Australia and is anticipating that this will be approved in the coming days.
Since joining the A-League, Fornaroli has established himself as one of the most prominent and exceptional attackers in the country and has scored 81 times in 138 matches with City and Perth Glory, including seven goals in 14 games this season for the Glory.
Perth coach Richard Garcia, himself a former Socceroo, told Fornaroli the exciting news of his selection and said his player was thrilled at hearing the announcement.
“I found out, so I mentioned it to him. The first thing he did was smile and say, ‘I’m an Aussie now,’” Garcia said.
“It was a nice moment seeing him so proud to be an Australian.”
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said Fornaroli has been a standout player in the A-League for a number of years.
“Over the last number of years Bruno has been a star of the A-League and has a great reputation of having a fighting and winning mentality,” Arnold said.
“He’s a great character and it’s great to have him in the extended squad.”
“The way he holds the ball up, shields the ball, wins free kicks and scores goals … I see it as a massive positive that we’re able to bring him in.”
Fornaroli said representing his country is a dream come true.
“I’m so happy but at the same time it’s crazy because at my age, 34, all my career I’ve tried to do my best,” Fornaroli told the Socceroos website.
“I’m living a dream because all my career I’ve waited for a moment like this.”
Fornaroli, whose son was born in Australia, left no doubt about where his allegiances now lied.
“Australia is home,” he said.
Arnold is confident that he has selected a group of players ready to make the most of their opportunities.
“I am energised by the messages that I have received from the boys over the past two days after they were notified of their selections. That it means as much to a Bruno (Fornaroli), Nathaniel (Atkinson), Nick (D’Agostino), Kye (Rowles), or Gianni (Stensness), players who have yet to take the pitch for Australia, as it does for a Maty (Ryan) or ‘Lecks’ (Mathew Leckie) highlights to me that they can’t wait to be back together to tackle this challenge head on and continue this great journey together,” he said.
The Socceroos sit in third spot in Group B of the AFC’s third round of World Cup qualifiers and are three points behind second-placed Japan, with first-placed Saudi Arabia a further point ahead.
A top-two Group B finish will earn the Socceroos automatic qualification to this year’s World Cup in Qatar.