Socceroos' World Cup triumph earns Graham Arnold overdue respect

·3-min read
After the Socceroos miraculously qualified for the FIFA World Cup, Graham Arnold but get some breathing room from his detractors. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)
After the Socceroos miraculously qualified for the FIFA World Cup, Graham Arnold but get some breathing room from his detractors. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)

Only those in Graham Arnold inner sanctum will know how close he came to quitting the Socceroos at various stages of the 1008-day World Cup qualifying campaign.

The endless time away from home, often left to his own thoughts in lonely hotel rooms, Covid battles – both personal and with staff and players – the loss of key players and the constant harping from critics wearied him.

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There were times he wondered if it all was all worth it.

At other times he turned to trusted friends and family and asked them whether they thought he should keep going in what is arguably the toughest national job in Australian sport.

He must have had moments when he felt like getting in first and escaping before the axe, seemingly hovering over his head from the moment we failed to qualify automatically, was dropped.

There were lucrative deals to coach elsewhere and enjoy a less pressured life.

But quitting and taking the easy way out was never Arnie's way.

As he alluded to in his post-match press conference following the dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Peru, he's only known the hard way since he and older brother Colin were left to fend for themselves following the premature deaths of both parents.

Any negatives thoughts about the Socceroos job were soon erased, replaced by an unshakeable belief Australia could still do it despite having to negotiate two sudden death qualifying matches.

Besides, Arnold couldn't give up on the players who had sacrificed so much to be part of the journey because they refused to give up on him.

Graham Arnold's critics take back seat after World Cup stunner

In the three-year qualifying process – for all the up and downs – the Socceroos boss has always had their backing.

You won't hear a bad word said about the guv.

"No-one knows what these boys have been through to get to here. It was so hard, the whole campaign," Arnold said.

"The way they've stuck at it, the way they've committed themselves to it (is) incredible."

Arnold would have been slaughtered had his decision to replace No.1 keeper Mat Ryan for Andrew "Wiggles" Redmayne before the penalty shoot-out backfired.

It would have been the epitaph on his Socceroos career.

Instead, the bold and ballsy move and Redmayne's critical penalty save now sits right up there alongside Australian sport's greatest moments.

No wonder Arnold called for a national holiday.

Asked if the result sticks it to his many critics, he replied: "The doubters don’t bother me. It’s these boys that I care for, the game I care for."

Hopefully, Arnold now receives some love in return from those who have been death-riding him for so long.

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