Victory striker Athiu makes surprise international debut in World Cup qualifier

Corey Brown Kenny Athiu Melbourne Victory
The attacker had been impressing in pre-season and did enough to earn his first national cap

Just two years ago, Kenny Athiu was still lining up for Victorian National Premier League side Heidelberg United. On Thursday morning (AEST), the 27-year-old made his international debut for South Sudan.  

After joining Melbourne Victory in October 2017, Athiu has been turning heads in pre-season, scoring three goals over the past month to successfully attract his birth country's attention.

Called up for the first time by South Sudan, the striker made his debut on Thursday after coming on in the 54th minute against Equatorial Guinea in World Cup qualifying. 

With his nation trailling 1-0 on home soil at the time he was introduced, Athiu would play his part as South Sudan salvaged a draw following an own goal in the 75th minute. 

That result saw South Sudan end a seven-game losing streak and keep their qualifying tie against Equatorial Guinea very much alive.

The two nations will meet again on Monday (AEST) as they look to make it to the second round of CAF qualifying.

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South Sudan haven't won a match since April 2017 and have never appeared at a World Cup. 

Athiu is one of three Victory players currently on international duty with Birkan Kirdar on Joeys duty and Thomas Deng with the Olyroos for friendlies against New Zealand.

While winger Elvis Kamsoba was included in Burundi's preliminary squad for their World Cup qualifiers, he seemingly didn't make the final cut.