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Socceroos star Awer Mabil said his game-winning spot-kick in Australia’s penalty shoot-out win over Peru was a tribute to his adopted homeland, for all it had done for him and his family.

Mabil was born in a refugee camp in Kenya to South Sudanese parents, before moving to Australia aged five and quickly excelling at football.

The time spent developing the talented winger was well worth it on Tuesday morning (AEST) as he netted Australia’s final penalty before Andrew Redmayne saved Peru’s Alex Valera, sending the Socceroos to the World Cup .

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“It was a time for me and my family to say thank you to Australia,” he told reporters afterwards.

“All I had to do was pick my spot – I knew I was going to score because it was the only way to say thank you to Australia on behalf of my family, it was the only thing that went through my head.”

Socceroos Awer Mabil says penalty was a ‘thank you’ to Australia

The 26-year-old came on with 20 minutes left for Mitch Duke and immediately picked up the pace of the Australian attack – his raids down the left yielded several good chances, notably Ajden Hrustic’s effort was saved well by Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese after a deflection.

Mabil said he contacted his family immediately after returning to the hangars, all of whom were in tears.

“It’s a moment that I don’t realize now but I know it’s going to be priceless, from tomorrow, really, to the rest of my life,” he said.

“I can’t describe the feeling, but it’s a feeling I will always come back to.”

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Mabil’s story is remarkable, and he was never forgotten even after securing a switch to European football and playing in the Champions League with FC Midtjylland.

“Obviously my family had to flee Sudan because of the war,” he said.

“I was born in a hut, a small hut – my hotel room here is definitely bigger than the hut, or the room we had as a family in the refugee camp.

“To have Australia take us in and resettle us has given me, my siblings and all my family a chance to live – and that’s what I mean by thanking the Australia.”

He still has many years left of a brilliant career, but one thing is certain: he will go down in footballing history as someone who had a direct impact on Australia by reaching a World Cup.

“I think I could have a little impact on Australian rules football because we’re going to the World Cup,” he said.

“I scored, a lot of my team-mates scored, everyone played their part – and maybe that young refugee played a big part.”

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