In the final minute of Australia’s round-of-16 World Cup match against Argentina at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Socceroos winger Craig Goodwin launches a cross into the box. The cross loops over the Argentinian full-back Nicolas Tagliafico towards 18-year-old Garang Kuol, Newcastle United’s new Aussie teen sensation. The stage is set for Kuol to truly announce himself to the world and score a crucial equaliser.
He finds space ahead of Tagliafico and launches a powerful right-footed strike towards goal on the turn. But Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez ruins the script, making an incredible save with his outstretched arm before gathering the ball and getting piled on by the defenders in front of him. That shot ended up being virtually the last kick of the game, and Australia’s underdog story in Qatar ended in heartbreak.
However, despite this heartbreak, Kuol’s appearance at the World Cup has perhaps signalled the start of a very promising future for the teenager. With Geordies anticipating his arrival on Tyneside (although he is expected to feature later on for Newcastle after loan moves), here are six interesting facts about the exciting youngster.
He was born in Egypt
Kuol was born in Egypt to South Sudanese parents, who had both fled South Sudan due to tensions in the country. A year later, his family would then move to Victoria, Australia, where Kuol and his family have been based ever since. Kuol was one of three South Sudanese refugees in Australia’s 2022 World Cup squad, alongside Awer Mabil, who plays for La Liga side Cadiz, and Thomas Deng of Japanese side Albirex Niigata. Mabil and Deng both grew up in Kenya before moving to Adelaide. They were childhood friends and have also already established a close bond with Kuol.
His older brother is also a professional footballer
Kuol grew up and played football alongside his older brother Alou. They both played for Victoria-based club Goulburn Valley Suns at youth level. They couldn’t afford the traditional financial costs of playing for the club, so instead, as their parents were both dry cleaners, they would use the family business to wash the club’s kits as an alternative. Alou would go on to play for Central Coast Mariners, like his younger brother does currently, before joining Bundesliga giants Stuttgart in 2021, but he has yet to make an appearance for their first team. He has also recently been linked with Manchester United, so could potentially be joining his brother in England.
Youngest World Cup knockout player since Pele
When Kuol came off the bench in that match against Argentina, it was a historic World Cup moment. At the age of just 18 years and 79 days, he became the youngest player since the iconic Pelé, who was only 17 when he appeared at the 1958 World Cup, to play in a World Cup knockout match.
He hasn’t yet started for Central Coast Mariners
It’s even more incredible that Kuol has appeared at a World Cup and secured a transfer to the Magpies when you consider that he hasn’t even made a professional start yet in the A-League for Central Coast Mariners. He’s made 13 first-team league appearances for the Mariners, all of them as a substitute. However, he has already scored six goals, including a goal on his debut against Wellington Phoenix in April, and assisted three, demonstrating his potential.
He’s played against Barcelona
He may have played against powerhouses France and Argentina at international level, but he has also already made his mark against one of the world’s biggest clubs. In May 2022, Kuol was chosen to appear in the A-League All Stars Game against Spanish giants Barcelona, in front of an attendance of around 70,000 in Sydney. Kuol’s highlight of the game was an incredible solo run from the halfway line, bulldozing his way through the Barca back line, although unfortunately he couldn’t find the net. However, Barca manager Xavi gave Kuol a special mention in his post-match interview, fueling speculation of a transfer, but Newcastle swept in instead.
He’s been in an away end with Newcastle fans
Soon after it was officially announced that Kuol would be joining Newcastle, he made good use of his time in the UK by joining the travelling Geordie faithful for Newcastle’s 4-1 thrashing of Fulham at Craven Cottage at the start of October.