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Arnold calls on NSW government for exemption for Socceroos crowds

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Having witnessed the impact it had on Japan, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is desperate for Australian fans to be allowed to cheer on his team in next month’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

A crowd of 14,437 cheered the Samurai Blue to a 2-1 win over Arnold’s team at Saitama on Tuesday, getting the Asian powerhouse’s ailing qualifying campaign back on track.

That boost is exactly what Arnold says his team needs as they face fellow Group B giants on November 11 in a match Football Australia is desperate to have played at CommBank Stadium in Sydney.

That would be just Australia’s second match on home soil during their qualifying campaign with the global COVID pandemic meaning 11 of their 12 matches have been played overseas.

“I’ve watched Japan play the last three games without a crowd and their energy was nowhere near what it was tonight,” Arnold said after the defeat in Saitama.

“I just really am reaching out to the NSW government and really appealing to them to help us on this journey for our World Cup pathway.

“I haven’t been home for six months but now that NSW have vaccinated 80 per cent plus, we’re still four weeks away from this game, they’d really help us by allowing fans into the stadium.”

Japan got off to a perfect start when Ao Tanaka scored in the eighth minute but Australia fought back and drew level thanks to a thundering free-kick from attacking midfielder Adjin Hrustic in the 69th minute.

Arnold thought his team looked likely to push on for a winner at that point but Japan used the energy of their home fans to find a winner via the unfortunate Aziz Behich’s own goal in the 85th minute.

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“We fought the crowd. We did very well,” Arnold said.

“We got back to 1-1 and then the crowd noise, the energy, the crowd gave the Japanese players in the last 10-15 minutes really helped them get in front again.

“I’m just really appealing to the government to help us on this journey to qualify for a World Cup.

“NSW is open now. Please help us, we need our crowd back.”

© AAP

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