Why Socceroos’ unsung hero Keanu Baccus is desperate to stay in Graham Arnold’s plans – and not warm the bench for Australia ahead of the next World Cup in 2026

Former A-League star Keanu Baccus has stated he has no intention of losing his Socceroos’ starting spot in the face of fierce competition for midfield berths.

Baccus, 25, has become an unsung hero in Australia’s engine room since making his debut off the bench against New Zealand in Auckland last year.

He then played in all four Socceroos matches at the subsequent 2022 World Cup in Qatar, starting in Australia’s 2–1 round of 16 loss to eventual champions Argentina.

Baccus – who has played for Scottish top-flight club St Mirren since the start of last season – has been a starter in seven of the Socceroos’ past eight games, including the 7-0 defeat to Bangladesh in Thursday night’s 2026 World Cup qualifier in Melbourne.

It’s a remarkable achievement considering Australia’s midfield stocks include Jackson Irvine, Connor Metcalfe, Massimo Luongo, Aiden O’Neill, the currently injured Riley McGree, as well as Cameron Devlin and Denis Genreau, both of whom were overlooked for the Socceroos . newest team from coach Graham Arnold.

Former A-League star Keanu Baccus has no intention of losing his Socceroos starting spot in midfield (pictured, with Lionel Messi at the World Cup in Qatar last year)

The defensive midfielder has quickly become a fan favorite due to his athleticism

“I’m honored to play more, but just grateful to be included in the squad,” Baccus said ahead of the trip to neutral Kuwait for the match against Palestine on Wednesday morning (AEDT).

“It just took a lot of hard work (and) preparation. The dreams I had as a young child, I just carried them out, and when I got my chance, I felt like I took it.

‘Making the jump to Scotland was a big step for me to progress and improve my game.’

Baccus said playing in the World Cup last year was also important for his development.

‘Those podiums really helped, playing in big games (against) Tunisia, Denmark, France, Argentina… it really taught me a lot, but it made me leave with more experience and more hunger to be in the group of the (national team) to step up’ a little bit more and become a starter,’ he said.

‘I would like to continue, take it one match at a time and do my best.’

The Socceroos took a chartered flight to Kuwait on Saturday to give them the best possible chance of another successful step towards the next World Cup in 2026.

Keanu Baccus started for the Socceroos against Bangladesh in the World Cup qualifier on November 16 in Melbourne

Baccus made his A-League debut with the Wanderers in 2016 and quickly attracted the attention of clubs abroad

“We’re going to rest, hopefully get a good night’s sleep for the first few hours, and then get used to the time zone there, and be ready for the game,” Baccus said.

‘We will come out of the plane fresh and fit. It’s going to give us a huge advantage.’

Baccus was confident the Socceroos would once again dominate their opposition, just as they did against football minnows from Bangladesh.

‘Physically I thought we were very good. We worked hard, we worked as a team and we kind of rode it over the top.” he said.

“That’s the motto of Australian football. “We’re all strong and physical and then we can put goals away when we need to, so hopefully that stays that way.”