All Star goalkeeper hopes he’s saved the best for last

A-League All Star goalkeeper Alex Paulsen is viewing the upcoming exhibition match against Newcastle United as an opportunity to see how tall he stands on the global stage.

The Australian league’s finest footballing talents will be on display when their 21-strong squad takes on the English Premier League club at Marvel Stadium on Friday.

Bayern Munich-bound Nestory Irankunda, hard-running German midfielder Tolgay Arslan and star Sydney FC winger Rhyan Grant will be among the players to feature in the exhibition match.

It is Paulsen’s first call-up to the squad after a career-best season with semi-finalists Wellington Phoenix.

The goalkeeper pulled off 12 clean sheets across the home-and-away and series finals, before the New Zealand team’s fairytale season came to an end after suffering a defeat to Melbourne Victory.

Paulsen’s skills in front of the net will be greatly tested by the likes of top Newcastle goalscorer Alexander Isak, who notched 21 goals in the Premier League to come third in the Golden Boot race this season, but the 22-year-old keeper relishes the challenge.

Alex Paulsen’s keeping skills will be sorely tested when the All Stars take on Newcastle United. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“This is a good opportunity for some of our younger players to get a taste of what some of the talent are like around the world,” Paulsen said on Wednesday.

“It gives us a test, especially myself and some of the younger players, to see where we are and where our capabilities are.

“Newcastle’s in probably one of the best leagues in the world. It’s a good opportunity for the boys to express ourselves and have fun and play with a bit of freedom.”

Veteran defender Grant is under no illusions of how difficult taking on an international team can be, even if there are no competition points on the line.

Grant has played in two of the previous three All Star matches, debuting in the inaugural team against Manchester United in 2013, then appearing in the 2022 squad against La Liga heavyweights Barcelona.

The three iterations of the All Stars squad have lost all of their matches, including a 3-2 defeat to Juventus in 2014.

“(It will be) about 90 minutes of adjustment,” Grant said.

“They’re world-class players and the talent is there to be seen.

“For me, it’s about trying to do my best and not embarrass myself and make the most of it.

“Hopefully, myself and the team can go out there and put on a good performance.”