Coach Arnold creates Australian landmark

Graham Arnold wouldn't have believed it.

"Ahh, mate," he told AAP.

"I got told the other day that I'm the first Australian-born - I know Ange (Postecoglou) is Australian but he was born in Greece - but the first Australian-born coach to ever lead the Socceroos to a World Cup.

"If someone had said to me 40 years ago, you would end up coaching and taking your nation to a World Cup, I would be pretty much dismayed."

Australia's first World Cup coach, in 1974, was Rale Rasic, born in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dutchman Guus Hiddink - with Arnold as an assistant - managed Australia at the 2006 cup; another Dutchman, Pim Verbeek, coached the nation at the 2010 tournament.

Athens-born Postecoglou oversaw the 2014 cup before stepping down two weeks after the Socceroos qualified for the 2018 edition - Australia drafted yet another Dutchman, Bert van Marwijk, to coach at that tournament.

Four years on, it's the Sydney-born Arnold, who fell in love with football as a six-year-old chasing the the ball around at Gwawley Bay FC in the Sutherland shire.

Football hasn't always loved Arnold back - like most long-term relationships, there have been ups and downs. And complications.

Arnold's father, Barry, was an abusive alcoholic.

Whatever Arnold did on the pitch, it never satisfied his dad: no matter how many goals he scored, his father harped on those he missed.

His mother Faye died from cancer when Arnold was 20; his father passed away from a heart attack when he was 25.

Arnold the footballer was an attacking force, an aggressive striker who rose through the ranks - from Gwawley Bay; to Canterbury-Marrickville in the NSW Premier League; to Sydney Croatia (now Sydney United) in the National Soccer League.

In October 1985, a 22-year-old Arnold got his first taste of the Socceroos and World Cups - he scored the first of his 19 goals from 56 'A' games for the Socceroos against Taiwan in a cup qualifer.

And he was on the bench later that year when Australia's quest to qualify for the 1986 cup boiled down to two fixtures against Scotland.

"We got beat by (Kenny) Dalglish and all that," he said.

In 1986, Arnold was the NSL's leading goalscorer and player of the year. All up, he scored 68 times in 178 NSL games from 1982-90 - and a glimpse of his future came in 1989/90 when he coached the Sydney club.

He was involved in four failed Australian campaigns to qualify for the World Cup. The unsuccessful campaigns burnt.

Arnold wanted more. And he got it.

"It has basically been 37, 38 years of my life since that I have given to the Socceroos and Australian football," he said.

Arnold was poached by Roda JC in the Netherlands in 1990 and played there for two seasons, moved to Belgium for three years, then back again to Holland.

In 1997, Arnold transfered to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan.

The following year he returned to the NSL in 1998 as player-coach for foundation club Northern Spirit - they reached the finals in their debut season.

Arnold's 18-year club career reaped 161 goals in 453 games.

And his tactical nous was recognised when he joined the Socceroos' assistant coaching ranks for the first time in 2000.

Arnold's six-year stint as an assistant included the 2006 World Cup when, under Guus Hiddink, the Socceroos advanced from the group for the first - and only - time in history.

After that cup, Arnold was interim head coach before Verbeek's appointment as head coach - he resumed his assistant's role until 2010 when taking the manager's job at Central Coast Mariners in the A-League.

In three seasons with the Mariners, Arnold won a championship and a premiership - they finished top-two in all seasons.

His success attracted attention. Arnold was lured to Japan in 2014 by Vegalta Sendai.

Frustrated by his ageing playing list and club hierarchy's refusal to bring in fresh talent, his five-month stint ended after six winless games by mutual agreement in April.

Within a month, Arnold was snapped up by Sydney FC and success followed: champions in 2016/17 after a season when Arnold's Sky Blues held top spot for the duration ands also won the FFA Cup.

After the Socceroos' winless 2018 World Cup, Arnold was appointed head coach.

And now becomes the first Australian-born coach to lead the Socceroos to the pinnacle tournament.

"It's a very proud moment," he said.

"But also, I want more, I want more.

"My contract is over after the last kick of the ball in Qatar and I am just going there to enjoy it and help these boys fulfil their dreams."

Arnold is adamant he hasn't thought about his future beyond Qatar.

"No. Not at all," he said.

"As I said, my contract is over. And it has been a tough four and a half years.

"But I am just going there to achieve something special but also to enjoy it and then afterwards is afterwards.

"I will have a bit of a break and see what comes up next."