EXCLUSIVE: Socceroos coach Graham Arnold explains why an A-League rule makes it difficult for him to pick his team – and why Australia will have a ‘crucial’ advantage at the World Cup, while big countries could struggle
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has messed up the schedule for the upcoming A-League season and believes some big countries will struggle at the World Cup in Qatar in November, while his side has an asset up its sleeve.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Mail Australia, the 59-year-old expressed anger at the struggling men’s national competition that didn’t get back to work until October 7, when Melbourne City hosted last season’s grand final winners, Western United, at AAMI Park.
With John Aloisi’s west side hoisting the trophy on May 28, this is the longest outdoor season in world football.
Arnold believes the huge gap between campaigns is incredibly damaging – and has been for the Socceroos, Olyroos and other junior national teams for many years.
“The gap between the A-League seasons makes it difficult for the national teams,” Arnold said.
“I’ll never understand why games aren’t played every year from April to October or November.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has messed up the A-League season planning and believes some big countries could struggle at the World Cup in Qatar
Mat Ryan is tipped to captain the Socceroos in Qatar and will be match fit if he is not injured at his Danish club FC Copenhagen.
“I would like to play regular international friendlies for Qatar in September, but the A-League boys are not match-fit at the moment, so there’s no way I can pick them.”
The flow-on effect means Arnold will have to choose local players in his latest World Cup squad based on reputation, not form, leaving the side at a major disadvantage over their opponents.
As a result, a starring role in the first few rounds of the A-League will mean little to players looking to impress Arnold at the 11th hour.
“I already have a reasonable idea of who I want, but as it is a World Cup year, the situation is not ideal,” he explained.
‘The FFA’ [Football Federation Australia] did what they could, and brought the [A-League] season three weeks ahead.
‘But internationally, all the little things can make a big difference.’
Many are tipping England for excelling at the World Cup in Qatar – but Arnold says it remains to be seen how they will adapt to the heat (pictured, striker Harry Kane)
Andrew Redmayne was the hero in Socceroos’ penalty shootout win against Peru in June – he is expected to be in Arnold’s final roster
With Australia against World Cup favorites France (November 23), Tunisia (November 26) and Denmark (December 1), recovery time between group matches will be limited.
Many expect the Socceroos to be cannon fodder after scraping into the tournament, but Arnold is quietly confident.
“We have played five games in Qatar before and won all five,” he said.
“The guys know what to expect in terms of the conditions and the local culture… and that can be crucial.
“You have to train in the heat, and then with the air-conditioned stadiums it takes time to adapt.
“Peru arrived late before they played against us, and I think it was definitely a factor in terms of their performance in our World Cup qualifier.
“Don’t be surprised if some of the bigger countries struggle, the heat can be hard to deal with.”
All three of the Socceroos’ Group D matches will be played at Al-Wakrah Stadium.
Don’t miss part II of Arnold’s chat with Daily Mail Australia where he discusses the Guus Hiddink factor, the dangers of social media for footballers and his plans after the 2022 World Cup.