Socceroos coach Graham Arnold speaks ahead of Australia’s knockout clash with Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup round of 16.
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The Asian Cup is almost upon us, and for Australia, it should be treated as if it held the same importance as the World Cup.
If the nation cannot compete in its own region, what hope do we have at the big moment, the World Cup? Spain rose through the Euros in 2008 before their South African triumph, and recently France made the final in the 2016 edition of the Euros.
After the golden generation, our next step as a footballing nation will be to consistently make it out of the World Cup group stage which will make the sport more rich and popular, flowing down to the A-League to grow crowds. This Asian cup is the perfect time for us to start taking the next step by making the semi-finals at least.
Since moving to Asia, we have become more competitive since our quarterfinal appearance in the 2007 debut. In 2011, we lost to Japan in the final and in 2015, we lifted the trophy on home soil.
The Asian Cup is the competition where we should be aiming to win every time, as it is definitely achievable and trophies will bring more fans. The national team has got to be performing at its best in the cup to regain a winning habit that will help with this younger squad of players for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.
Australia can beat anyone in this competition when we are at our best, but will have great competition in South Korea (recent 1-1 in Brisbane), Japan (great World Cup) and a couple of other countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Syria.
Whilst the injuries to the squad could hurt Australia’s chances with many important players like Aaron Mooy, Martin Boyle, Mathew Leckie, Daniel Arzani and potentially Tom Rogic to miss games. The depth in the squad is very strong with many fringe players looking very exciting such as Chris Ikonomidis, Awer Mabil, Mustafa Amini, Jackson Irvine and Rhyan Grant will be looking to force their way into the best 11.
Australia has a great team but must approach the tournament in the right way as recently when we haven’t, we have been scared with draws against Thailand and nearly knocked out of World Cup qualifying by Syria. The Asian Cup is our big chance for a trophy, so let’s treat it as important as the World Cup and go on a great run.