Bruno Fornaroli the Socceroo: How did it happen?

It’s been dubbed a charter to end the one-cap wonder – and has now helped to create the biggest Socceroos surprise for years.

Seven years after he moved to Australia to sign for Melbourne City, Perth Glory head coach Richard Garcia revealed Bruno Fornaroli is in the Socceroos squad for pivotal World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia this month, thanks to a change in international rules, and at the eye-catching age of 34.

In 2020, FIFA made subtle but far-ranging changes to the rules governing player eligibility for a country other than the one they obviously could represent. Among various sub-clauses, the new rules permit a player who played for his home country but not at senior level, who was under 21 at the time and has since lived in a new country for five years or more to apply for the right to represent his new place of residence.

Fornaroli had played for Uruguay aged 17 at the 2003 South American U17 Championships, which until the changes in the rules meant he was tied to Uruguay forever. But thanks to the new regulations, and an injury crisis among Graham Arnold’s striking stocks, the freescoring striker has the chance to come in at the absolute deciding point of a World Cup qualification campaign.

Over the past few weeks Arnold’s options have dwindled alarmingly. Adam Taggart is six weeks away from even training thanks to surgery on his knee, Mathew Leckie is currently injured at defending Isuzu UTE A-League champions City, Jamie Maclaren is not available to travel to Saudi Arabia due to getting married, while Tomi Juric hasn’t played for three and a half months. Apostolos Giannou has scored three goals in 10 for Macarthur FC this A-League Men season but has never convinced at international level – and his last goal before those recent three was in October 2019.

Put it another way. Of the 21 highest scorers this season in the ALM, 10 aren’t eligible for the Socceroos. Of the forwards who played at the Olympics, Nick D’Agostino and Mitch Duke will be in Arnold’s squad.

Desperate times, in other words, call for desperate measures. Fornaroli might have looked at the arrival of Daniel Sturridge at Perth with alarm at the start of this season; instead, thanks to the former Liverpool striker’s constant plague of minor injuries, Fornaroli has shown his enduring class to record seven goals in 14 games for a struggling side.

Nonetheless, this is a gamble of the highest order for Arnold. Will Fornaroli fit in with his style of play? Having never scored in continental club fixtures in both Europe and Asia, can he disturb the defences of Japan and Saudi Arabia? At 34, does he have the pace to find room against a high-class defence?

Nick D’Agostino scored twice for Melbourne Victory against Vissel Kobe.

The answers to those questions and more is simply: who knows? A coach who by nature leans on the tried and trusted, especially in big games, has rolled the dice. Fornaroli’s selection takes the eye off D’Agostino’s inclusion which is far more logical; he scored the goals that secured Olympic qualification, and Arnold rates his industry. Two goals against Vissel Kobe in Tuesday’s AFC Champions League play-off just burnished those credentials this week.

But imagine Fornaroli starts against Japan. In a fixture already stacked with importance, where Australia simply have to win, Arnold has just added a whole new layer of storylines.