Argentina coach's staggering claim about Socceroos at World Cup

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is pictured left, with Socceroos players celebrating on the right.
The Socceroos and Argentina are facing a tight turnaround after the group stage, with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni slamming FIFA's scheduling. Pictures: Getty Images

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has found an unlikely ally in Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, at least until the round of 16 begins. Scaloni echoed Arnold in criticising FIFA for the remarkably short turnaround before the knockout stage, insisting his side were not the favourites to beat Australia.

Argentina defeated Poland 2-0 to come out on top of their group, despite being stunned by Saudi Arabia in their first match in Qatar. Scaloni said it was 'crazy' that his side only had a three-day turnaround before the do-or-die clash against the Socceroos.

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“We are happy today but I don’t want to be euphoric because I think it’s crazy that we’re playing in just over two days despite being winners of this group,” he said. “I can’t understand it. It’s already (the early hours of) Thursday and we have two days and then we have to play it.”

Arnold has made a point of publicly imploring his players to prioritise their recovery over any celebrations, particularly after their wins against Tunisia and Denmark. Games have regularly been played in temperatures exceeding 30 degrees in Qatar, heightening an already brutal toll on every player in the competition.

“I’ve been around long enough, the most important thing is recovery, (good) sleep and making sure you’re ready for the next game," Arnold said after the win against Denmark. He also quipped that the only reward his players would get after defeating Denmark was water.

Scaloni said Argentina needed to be wary of the Socceroos, highlighting the danger of every side at the World Cup after they were upset 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in their opening fixture of the tournament. Admitting that their research on the Socceroos wasn't of huge depth as of yet, Scaloni insisted his side, featuring football legend Lionel Messi, were not the favourites heading into the match.

“If you think Australia will be easy you’re wrong because they have shown that getting through against tough teams in this World Cup," he said. “All the games are hard. Anyone who thinks the match against Australia will be easy is wrong. We’re not favourites. If you think that just because we won today, we are going to become World Cup winners, you’re wrong.”

Socceroos unhappy about short World Cup turnaround

Defender Milos Degenek has also criticised FIFA's scheduling ahead of the clash against Argentina, which will take place at 6am AEDT on Sunday morning. Kick-off will be just two days after both sides played their last game.

The Socceroos will also have the challenge of managing the emotional high of equalling Australia's best result at the World Cup, the 2006 'Golden Generation' coached by Guus Hiddink. Arnold has been determined to ensure his side maintains perspective until all is said and done.

Degenek said FIFA needed to understand players were not robots, particularly considering the searing heat almost all matches have been played in. "It's something that FIFA need to consider, that we're not robots, that we are humans," Degenek said.

The Socceroos celebrate around Mathew Leckie after his goal against Denmark at the FIFA World Cup.
The Socceroos absolutely erupted after Matthew Leckie's goal against Denmark, which put them through to the round of 16. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

"And that we do need to recover and we can't just play day after day. We need a break as well." Degenek though, echoed Arnold's emphasis on the team's recovery.

"Not just me, especially the boys that played three in a row and they have the short turnaround now again," he said."But they will recover. They will get back and they will be ready."

The Socceroos actually have a slight edge in recovery: they played their last game, a 1-0 win against Denmark, four hours before Argentina downed Poland 2-0. That gives Messi's world No.3 outfit no reward for finishing top of their group. The Australians finished second in theirs.

"I think it's absolute madness to play in nearly two days and a bit when we are top of the group, I can't understand it," Scaloni said. "Those aren't good conditions but it's the same for everyone. We're first in the group. We could have had more rest."

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is on SBS and SBS on Demand.

With AAP

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