In the recent Socceroos campaigns in Russia and the UAE, it has become quite apparent the playing squad needs a serious shakeup, based around exciting young players at its core.
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The year was 2007, and it was Graham Arnold’s first tournament in charge of the Socceroos.
They didn’t live up to the expectations of many as they went out in the first knockout round to Japan on penalties. Heartbreak. After qualifying for a World Cup for the first time in 32 years, this Golden Generation returned home with nothing to show.
Fast forward 12 years and Arnold is back in charge of the green and gold. Although this time, he has three A-League premierships, two A-League Championships and an FFA Cup under his belt. He finally got his second chance.
The chances of success for Australia at this year’s Asian Cup were slimmed after a number of key players all picked up injuries. Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie, Daniel Arzani and Martin Boyle were all ruled out before the tournament even started. Add that to the fact that Arnold had failed with the Golden Generation and the pressure was on.
The first game of the tournament ended in disappointment, as Jordan claimed all three points over the Socceroos with a 1-0 win. The pressure was starting to mount on Arnold. With people starting to question his ability and if he could defend the title. If he couldn’t get it done with our best ever crop of players, how was he supposed to do it now?
Less than convincing but much needed wins over Palestine and Syria started to get the title defence back on track. A 3-0 win over Palestine with the goals coming from Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and Apostolos Giannou, before a drama-filled game against Syria – with Tom Rogic scoring the winner in additional time to make it 3-2. The Socceroos were through to the next round.
With the injuries starting to pile up, a number of players have stepped up in this tournament such as Perth Glory super star Chris Ikonomidis, pacey winger Mabil and Sydney FC veteran Rhyan Grant.
The team has been lacking goals for some time now with Cahill always being relied on, players such as Mabil, Maclaren and Giannou finding the back of the net must surely bring relief to the fans watching back home in Australia.
The next challenge for the Socceroos is Uzbekistan, who they will play in the Round of 16 – an opponent not to be underestimated.
While Australia have managed to avoid powerhouses such as Japan and Iran by finishing second in their group, the pressure will be starting to mount on Arnold. With the potential of tricky opposition ahead in the later stages of the tournament and a lot of injuries to the squad, can Arnold finally get it done with the Socceroos?