Newcastle United fans got to feast their eyes on Garang Kuol on Tuesday night, as the 18-year-old made his World Cup debut.
The forward came off the bench in Australia’s 4-1 defeat to reigning champions France, on a night that threatened to present another upset.
Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia beat Argentina in one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history. And when Craig Goodwin put the Socceroos in front in the first 10 minutes, it looked like more drama was on the cards.
But France rallied, and went on to be convincing winners. Kylian Mbappe showed his class, while Olivier Giroud became France’s joint all-time leading goalscorer with his 51st goal for his country.
However, the main talking point for Newcastle fans was seeing Kuol in action.
Garang Kuol endures difficult World Cup debut
When Kuol arrives at Newcastle in January, he will arrive as a player who has featured at a World Cup.
The teenager was brought on by Graham Arnold on Tuesday night, at a point when the game was beyond Australia.
Kuol was introduced in the 73rd minute, shortly after Didier Deschamps’ side had made it 4-1. There was no way back into it for Australia, and Kuol was forced to play his part in a challenging night for his nation that initially promised so much.
He was deployed on the right wing, but didn’t get many touches. And the ones he did get were largely ineffective. We saw one example of his dribbling and speed, but he couldn’t back it up with a pass to a teammate.
It will have been quite the experience for Kuol. He will never have played against opposition like that before. And he will hope to have more of an impact later in the tournament.
Kuol’s message to Newcastle fans
Toon fans will hope Kuol gets more minutes in Australia’s next two group games, where he might be able to be more influential.
But it is all a learning curve for the youngster. He still doesn’t have a lot of experience, and will benefit from his time in Qatar before his big move to Newcastle.
Kuol spoke to the Athletic’s David Ornstein after the game, and was asked about heading to Tyneside.
“I’ve been reading a lot of messages, a lot of support, people saying “Welcome to the Toon” and stuff,” he said.
“I’ll just send them a photo of these shoes!”
At first inspection, it seemed like a strange response from Kuol. He appeared shy in his interview with NUFC TV after his move was confirmed, and this was an equally as blunt response.
However, he was actually delivering a subtle message to the Toon Army. Kuol’s shoes were black and white, the colours he will be wearing on his shirt in the very near future.
He will reportedly be loaned out shortly after arriving at Newcastle, but it is going to be very exciting to watch his development at St James’ Park. Kuol is being tipped to become a star, and hopefully he can do that wearing the same colours as his shoes.