Reprieved Arnold up for WC play-off task

·3-min read

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is intent on proving the doubters wrong by making the most of his second chance to guide Australia to this year's World Cup.

All the talk after the loss to Saudi Arabia in Jeddah in March was that Arnold would be sacked after failing to secure direct qualification for November's finals in Qatar.

So loud was that speculation, Football Australia felt compelled to issue a statement confirming Arnold would remain in charge for the remainder of the Socceroos' campaign.

It means the 58-year-old will gets another crack to lead Australia to the World Cup via next month's play-offs in Doha.

The Socceroos are assembling in the Middle East ahead of a clash with the United Arab Emirates, who finished third in the other Asian qualifying group, on June 7 (0400 AEST June 8).

The winner of that match then faces Peru in Qatar a week later for a spot in the World Cup.

To reach a fifth-straight World Cup, Australia has to halt a run of form which has led to just one win in their past seven qualifiers including costly draws against China and Oman.

Arnold is feeling confident, especially given he has a virtually full strength squad at his disposal and he's avoided the COVID-19 issues which have limited his own involvement in the past two camps having tested positive for the virus on both occasions.

"I can't say that I've really coached this team this year," Arnold said.

"I've not been present.

"I wasn't present at the Vietnam game and I got into camp for the Japan game on the day of the game at midday.

"I actually am big with coaching on face-to-face relationships, face-to-face communication and also face-to-face training. I wasn't able to do that in any of the camps so far this year, so it's just great for me to be able to feel like a coach again and be back in camp.

"All that speculation is speculation but I've grown up over the years where I lost my parents at a young age and I've always been someone who loves a challenge in life.

"This is going to be a challenge but it's going to be a great challenge and the bigger the challenge the more I like it."

As well as staying COVID-19 free himself, Arnold is delighted to have key personnel such as Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Jackson Irvine back in his squad after all missed crucial matches during the previous camp through a variety of reasons.

"It's just great to get a full squad," Arnold said.

"This will be the first time in the four years that I've been in charge that we'll have 10 days' preparation for a game."

The Socceroos will prepare for their clash with UAE by taking on Jordan in a friendly in Doha on Wednesday (Thursday 0400 AEST).

With players involved in Saturday's A-League Men's grand final set to arrive either on Monday or Tuesday in Doha, Arnold said he'll be using that match to provide members of his squad who haven't played many minutes in recent weeks with a valuable hit-out.

"We don't want to send them into a four-week window of not having any match minutes at all so the starting XI will be based around players that haven't played for probably three weeks or more," Arnold said.

"They need minutes in their legs."

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