Arnold
Graham Arnold has vigorously defended his Socceroos after their Asian Cup quarter-final exit. Image by AP PHOTO
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Arnold remains upbeat over Socceroos’ Asian Cup exit

George Clarke February 9, 2024

Graham Arnold has launched a staunch defence of the Socceroos’ quarter-final exit at the Asian Cup, branding the tournament a success and vowing to continue with tactics that suit Australia’s strengths.

Instead of barking instructions on the sideline in Doha this weekend, Arnold will be forced to watch this year’s final from the comfort of his lounge room after their 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea.

Were it not for a late blunder from Lewis Miller, a gut-wrenching miss from Mitchell Duke and some Son Heung-min magic, Arnold may have had the Socceroos on the cusp of their first continental title since 2015.

But asked if a quarter-final finish represented a pass or fail, Arnold told AAP: “It’s a huge pass, we scored nine goals, conceded three and one of those was a penalty and the other was a free-kick from one of the best players in the world (Son).

“Even with the final coming up, we got the biggest scoreline – 4-0 against Indonesia.

“I said before this tournament I had one eye on the Asian Cup and two eyes on the World Cup in 2026 and this gave me an opportunity to test players.”

Disappointed Socceroos players.
 Socceroos players are left dejected after their Asian Cup quarter-final loss to South Korea. Image by AP PHOTO 

Fourteen of the players picked by Arnold were participating in their first major tournament.

The Socceroos boss had to juggle his squad selection with an eye on April’s Olympic qualification campaign and the tournament being rearranged to the middle of the European season.

But in spite of those obstacles, Arnold was criticised for the Socceroos’ lack of cutting edge against the so-called minnow nations.

Arnold finds it hard to swallow after guiding Australia to their best-ever finish at the 2022 World Cup which earned him billing from French newspaper L’Equipe as the best manager in international football.

“If you hear how I get praised all over Asia for tactics and structure … I don’t listen to people back here,” said Arnold, who boasts the most wins as coach in Socceroos history.

“Those same people were saying the same thing before the World Cup.

“Our system has changed that many times and I can only pick players based on their passports, I can’t pay transfer fees to bring players in so I have to adjust to what our strengths are.

“If I didn’t do that then we wouldn’t be doing anything.

“All the goals we scored were from patterns of play but so many people come up to me saying, ‘Where’s the next Mark Viduka’, and I’ll say ‘Can you please find him for me?’

“I can get players into one-on-one situations but it’s up to the individual to score.”

Graham Arnold.
 Graham Arnold is not impressed with the criticism following the Socceroos’ Asian Cup exit. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Arnold said it was hard to stop criticism filtering back to his players, who are next in action against Lebanon in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers in March.

“I said after the win over Syria they need to get off social media,” Arnold said.

“Otherwise all these people who wear XXXL tracksuits, who’ve never kicked a ball in their life, will affect the players and their mindset.”

Arnold said he wasn’t expecting any of his senior players to rush into decisions on their international future ahead of the March window, where two wins would guarantee passage to the next round of qualifiers.