Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has called on Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to ensure the upcoming game against Palestine is "safe" for his team, as the bloody conflict with Israel rages on. Arnold's men defeated New Zealand 2-0 on Wednesday morning (AEDT) to snap a four-match losing streak and claim football's version of the 'Ashes'.
Speaking after the game in London, the Socceroos coach turned his attention to the second phase of Australia's qualification campaign for the 2026 World Cup. The Aussies have been drawn in a group that also contains Lebanon, Bangladesh and Palestine - prompting safety concerns from Arnold on behalf of his side.
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"We've got a pretty interesting group and we'll need government support for those decisions where we are playing Palestine and Lebanon, because of what is going on at the moment looks quite scary," Arnold said after his team's 2-0 friendly win over New Zealand in London.
The Socceroos' World Cup qualifying phase gets underway next month at Melbourne's AAMI Park, where the Aussies will square off against Bangladesh on November 16. They are then due to face Palestine five days later, although the venue for that match remains unclear.
Algeria's football federation has put their hand up to host Palestine's matches as the conflict with Israel rumbles on, however Arnold says it makes no sense as Algeria are not part of the Asian confederation.
"I don't understand that," the Socceroos coach said. "As far as I know you have to play your qualifiers in the confederation where you play - and that's not part of Asia. So I don't think that's real.
"Everyone is uncomfortable, staff, players, we are only three weeks away from it. By Friday I think Palestine have to come up a with a neutral venue, and we have to be careful where that neutral venue is with what's going on.
"It is terrible what's going on, but FA (Football Australia) are working on it and let's hope we get some support and help from the government. The neutral venue has to be a neutral venue.
"When the draw came out and Japan had to play North Korea, Japan's prime minister straight away said 'we're not playing in North Korea.' It wasn't the president of the association, it was the prime minister.
Socceroos want PM to ensure Palestine game is safe
Arnold has urged Australia's prime minister to take a similar stance and asked the federal government to provide assurances that his playing group and staff will be safe. "We're obviously not on top of everything that is going on in the security side of things in the Middle East, no doubt the government is more into that than we are - so give us some help so the decision is safe. We need to be safe."
The Socceroos' recent friendly against England did not feature the flags of Israel or Palestine and the Wembley Stadium arch was not lit up in colours to support either side, in a move that saw England's FA come under criticism. Reports in England suggest it was partly down to Australian concerns ahead of the Palestine game, and not wanting to be seen taking sides in the conflict with Israel. The Albanese government has been very supportive of Israel in the current crisis, lighting up Parliament House in Canberra in the colours of the Israeli flag.
Arnold's Socceroos tuned up for their World Cup qualifying phase with a comfortable win against New Zealand, with Mitchell Duke and Jackson Irvine scoring the goals in the 2-0 triumph. Defender Harry Souttar was initially credited with the opener after Duke's 14th-minute shot appeared to brush the Leicester City defender's chest, before it was eventually given to the striker.
The Socceroos coach made five changes from the XI that lost 1-0 to England, handing a debut to 20-year-old Parma defender Alessandro Circati and a first start to Hibernian's Lewis Miller. The new boys combined to set up Duke's goal, with Miller crossing for Circati at the back post to head the ball into the path of Duke, who smashed a decisive volley into the back of the net.
New Zealand's best chance came in the 64th-minute when Bill Tuiloma's free kick struck the bar, but Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan had very little to do otherwise. Irvine's header settled the contest late on as Ryan was presented with a silver cup - the century-old wooden 'Ashes' trophy deemed too fragile to make the trip to London.
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