Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has shared a jocular moment at his pre-game press conference ahead of his side’s World Cup showdown with Denmark – joking a question “ruined my day”.
Arnold, who spent half an hour fielding questions mostly about the Socceroos’ must-win match and their bid to reach the Round of 16 for the first time since 2006, was taken aback when asked about the 25-year anniversary of his last game for Australia.
His international career had a sad end when his Socceroos fell at the final hurdle in World Cup qualification on the away goals rule following a 2-2 draw with Iran at the MCG.
Arnold was asked what he could take from that memory to use to help sharpen the focus for his team during this campaign.
“Thanks for ruining my day. That was probably one of the worst moments of my football life,” Arnold joked.
US OFFERS BECKON AS ARNOLD WEIGHS UP SOCCEROOS FUTURE
Having climbed back from the brink of getting the axe, Graham Arnold has the chance to deliver Australia a remarkable $6 million boon with his greatest coaching achievement.
But even if he is able to help pull off the miraculous, will Arnold stay in charge of the Socceroos?
With a contract that runs out at the end of the World Cup, Arnold says he finally has “my future in my own hands” – with overtures from Major League Soccer clubs in the USA possibly vying for his services.
Treated as a punching bag by many over his four years in charge, Arnold says the only thing he knows for sure is that he’ll need a break whenever Australia’s golden run comes to an end.
“I’ve seen out four and a half years. I look at it that for the first time in four and a half years, I have my future in my own hands and I can do what I want,” Arnold said ahead of Australia’s vital group game against Denmark, where victory will secure second spot in Group D and a Round of 16 berth.
“I will need a break after this, but I’m just here for the next couple of weeks to help the nation help the boys fulfil their dreams.”
Should Arnold’s team become just the second Australian group to reach the knockout rounds it will be more than just a feather in his cap – it will also swell Football Australia’s coffers substantially.
For just reaching the World Cup, even with a group stage exit, teams earned $9 million ($AUD13.4m) in the monstrous $440 million ($A655m) pie.
But with one more victory – or a draw, should results fall Australia’s way – the cash prize for Arnold’s men is raised to $13 million ($A19m).
And the dream run continues and Australia advances to the quarter-final, the windfall coming their way jumps to $17 million ($A25m).
It’s a remarkable turnaround in just nine months.
In March, Arnold expected to be sacked in the wake of the Socceroos’ disappointing 1-0 defeat to Saudi Arabia, when Football Australia officials met to decide his future.
Serious pressure had mounted even before that Saudi result, and in the aftermath Arnold faced the very real possibility of being dumped from the job he’s poured his heart and soul into.
“At that point, the team needed a circuit breaker,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson told News Corp in June.
“For me, watching the team how they played against Saudi Arabia was important.
“We didn’t win the match but you look at it, the team went into bat for Arnie.
“He was under a lot of pressure after the Japan match, a lot of people calling for his head.
“What I was looking at was, ‘How would the players respond?’ I saw the players wanted to win the match for Arnie; to me, that was very important.”
FULL WORLD CUP PRIZEMONEY BREAKDOWN (IN AUD)
• Winner: $A62.5m
• Runner-up: $A45m
• Third place: $A40m
• Fourth place: $A37m
• Quarter-final: $A25m
• Last 16: $A19m
• Group stage: $A13.4m
SOCCEROOS STAR REVEALS DEVASTATING ACL BLOW
Martin Boyle has opened up on the devastating injury which ended his World Cup dream, making the extraordinary revelation that he may have been playing with a damaged ACL for the past seven years.
While the Socceroos are preparing for their most important match in 16 years, a clash against Denmark which could deliver them a first World Cup Round of 16 berth since 2006, Boyle has been relegated to the position of the team’s Official Vibes Manager.
It’s a role the up-beat sparkplug fills with aplomb, but Boyle’s positivity hides the agony he’s experiencing as a result of missing out on football’s biggest stage.
Incredibly, Boyle – speaking for the first time on the devastating injury which ruled him out for 12 months on the eve of the World Cup – revealed the true story behind his plight.
The 29-year-old also explained why the multiple scans which had cleared him to fly to Doha, after suffering a reported meniscus injury while playing for Scottish club Hibernian last month, had missed the severe damage which required a full knee reconstruction.
“There were a few times where I broke down and nearly threw in the towel,” Boyle said of his efforts to push through the pain and attempt to prove his fitness for coach Graham Arnold.
But it was always to be in vain, as surgeons found when the Socceroos finally admitted defeat and Boyle was scratched from the tournament.
What they found inside was that the Scotland-born winger had a discoid meniscus – meaning it is thicker than normal – and had remarkably been stabilising his ACL-damage knee for years.
“Long story short, I could have had this ACL injury for about six, seven years and been playing through it,” Boyle said.
“It’s a bit of a tricky one. I’ve been trying to digest it myself – you get put to sleep and you wake up and your whole knee’s been reconstructed.
“I think that’s why I’m kind of optimistic. I’ve played that long with an injury that’s severe, and when I did damage the meniscus it’s kind of just not been stable enough for my ACL to hold and that’s why I’ve had that surgery.”
Reflecting on the devastation of missing out on Australia’s success in Doha, Boyle made it clear that this was not the end of his story.
He is determined to win back his Socceroos jersey, and can draw on the recovery of defensive superstar Harry Souttar as his inspiration to push ahead for next June’s Asian Cup – although the tight turnaround would leave little room for error.
“The Asian Cup is on the horizon. But I don’t think I need the extra motivation, I have already got that motivation, the hunger, the desire to get back,” Boyle said.
“I want to earn that jersey back and represent the country again.”
Aussie fans went absolutely bonkers when Mitch Duke’s header in the 23rd minute against Tunisia found its way into the back of the net.
Wild scenes unfolded in the stadium crowd, in bars across the globe and in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
But in footage captured by the BBC, Graham Arnold’s joy very quickly turned into a white-hot rage.
The Socceroos coach celebrated briefly before he vented his frustrations in the direction of skipper Mat Ryan.
AUSTRALIA V DENMARK KICKS-OFF AT 2AM AEDT THURSDAY DEC 1
Arnold was seen pointing and screaming at the goalkeeper, shouting at him to go and celebrate with his teammates.
The moment from the Socceroos manager shows just how much he wants the team to be truly bonded.
IS ARNIE HERE TO STAY?
Arnold has the backing of the playing group to continue as national coach regardless of Australia’s final destination at this World Cup.
Arnold became the first Australian-born coach to win a World Cup game when he helped steer the Socceroos to victory over Tunisia on Saturday, a result which put them in the box seat to reach the Round of 16 for just the second time in history.
Throughout his four-year tenure in charge of the Socceroos, however, Arnold has always faced outside pressure.
But never from his players.
On Sunday, still basking in the glow of Australia’s 1-0 win, striker Mitchell Duke threw his support behind Arnold by declaring “every lad in this team would like to see him continue on”.
“That’s completely on him to see if he wants to continue on but for me personally I have obviously loved working under Arnie,” said Duke.
“I love the way he coaches, I love the atmosphere he creates in camp and if that’s what he wanted to do, to continue on, I back him 100 per cent. But that is obviously an individual thing for him.
“He has been doing it for this whole journey, it has not been easy, but I am sure every lad in this team would like to see him continue on.”
Football Australia have been noncommittal on the future of Arnold, whose current contract runs out after the end of the 2022 World Cup, preferring to wait and see on the results in Doha.
It is unclear whether Arnold would pursue another contract, however his strong bond with the playing group could convince him to accept an extension if one were offered.
Speaking before the all-important Tunisian victory, Arnold stressed “it’s not about me”.
“It’s not about me at all. If it was about me, I probably would have left ages ago,” Arnold said.
Originally published as FIFA World Cup 2022 Australia next match kick-off time: Socceroos v Denmark, what result do they need?