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There’s only one question worth asking following the Socceroos’ 2-1 win over Hungary on Sunday morning – should Daniel Arzani start against France?
It almost beggars belief, but some Australian fans don’t seem to think Arzani is even worth a place in Bert van Marwijk’s squad.
A few days ago I had a brief Twitter exchange with a fan who claimed that Arzani was in the squad “purely because of Australia’s football media promoting him.”
“Tell me how he deserves a spot over someone like Troisi who is a proven Socceroo?” went the rest of the refrain.
One word: talent. And we saw a glimpse of it when Arzani came off the bench to score at the Groupama Arena in Budapest with virtually his first touch of the ball.
Yes, it was a horrendous piece of goalkeeping and sure, the Hungarians were pedestrian at best.
But Arzani possesses the X-factor the Socceroos so desperately need. So much so that plenty of pundits are now wondering whether it’s worth starting him against France.
Well then, is it? The player he came on for – Robbie Kruse – is a regular target of the boo brigade, and his cause wasn’t helped by skying a sitter over the crossbar on the 20-minute mark.
So should Arzani start in place of Kruse? Or would he be better utilised off the bench against a fatiguing French defence?
It’s worth remembering that for all the talk of Arzani being somewhat of an unknown heading into the World Cup, it’s not like France won’t have a team of video analysts on hand.
They would have seen the same footage that the rest of us saw on Sunday.
And it’s also worth remembering that their midfield is likely to contain N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi. They’re a whole other level to Hungary.
But what Arzani possesses – sheer unbridled confidence – is the sort of thing you can’t coach.
He’s not worth starting against France though. Not against such a star-studded midfield.
Arzani’s best work, at least at this point in his career, is still going to come in 20-minute bursts. He played the full 90 minutes just four times in total for Melbourne City last A-League season.
And with Kruse a seasoned veteran of the international arena – yes, he makes mistakes but he also routinely creates space for his team-mates – he’s surely a better option at this stage of the game than throwing Arzani into the lion’s den.
Start him against Denmark if you must, Bert, provided the Socceroos lose their opener with France.
But hold him back until the second half in Kazan when he has the chance to run at some tired legs.
Will Mile Jedinak feature against the French? He was benched for the first half in Budapest, but strangely enough arguably benefited from his absence.
Massimo Luongo continues to blow hot and cold in green and gold, but surely a bigger concern is Tommy Rogic’s continuing lack of form?
Both Luongo and Rogic are in danger of losing their places in the starting side, with the Socceroos looking stronger when Jackson Irvine is bossing the midfield.
We’re still waiting, however, for Aaron Mooy to make a telling contribution. Maybe it will come against Les Bleus?
However the time for tinkering is over. There are no more pre-tournament friendlies. Now it’s time for the real deal.
The Socceroos were erratic in their pre-tournament showings in 2006, when the luckiest of 1-1 draws against the Netherlands in Rotterdam was followed by a wholly unconvincing 3-1 win over minnows Liechtenstein in Ulm.
A young Josh Kennedy came off the bench and made his mark on that game with a headed goal on debut.
What price a similar showing from Daniel Arzani in Kazan?
He’s got the talent to make a difference. The question is: has he got the temperament?