Coach Arnold faces tough calls in defence

·2-min read

Graham Arnold knows some tough World Cup calls lie ahead as he monitors the health of two key defenders and the form of veteran Trent Sainsbury.

Sainsbury was exposed in the early stages of Australia's 1-0 victory over New Zealand in Brisbane on Thursday, a wild pass and then poor touch lucky not to cost his side two goals.

"There's got to be a big improvement, but we won't be playing anywhere near that open (at Qatar's World Cup in November), pressing high, allowing plenty of space," Arnold said of their performance in general.

"I did change the way we played ... tried to go man-on-man over the whole park to get that physical battle, but overall we should have scored a couple more goals."

Occasional Socceroos captain and one-time Inter Milan centre back Sainsbury, who is married to Arnold's daughter, is plying his trade for Qatari club Al-Wakrah.

He and Milos Degenek were replaced by Kye Rowles and Bailey Wright in the starting side that beat Peru to qualify, while imposing defender Harry Souttar (knee) is nearing full fitness after a year on the sideline.

Rowles (broken foot) is another injury concern for Arnold, who says he will only pick players in "the form of their life", while Wright is yet to be confirmed for Sunday's return clash in Auckland after staying in England for the birth of his daughter.

With Sainsbury among a bulk of Thursday's starters likely not to feature at Eden Park, the coach conceded he'd be paying close attention to his son-in-law's club fortunes.

"That's a great question and one I have to keep watching," he said when asked if the Qatar league could spark Sainsbury.

"As well as watching (the returns of) Harry and Kye Rowles.

"This is the purpose of these two games (against New Zealand) ... the plan B, plan C. If something happens I have to know who's next."

That could well be another tall defender in uncapped Harrison Delbridge, who has impressed in Korea with Incheon United after three seasons with Melbourne City and will likely get his shot in Auckland.

Arnold knows he'll have to drop someone from the final World Cup squad that helped them get there.

"It's the worst part of this job, disappointing people," he said.

"Every camp, every time you pick a squad you're ringing 20 players, telling them they're not in the squad, giving them some kind of explanation.

"They're all desperate to be here but I can only pick 26."