There are no more second chances for the Socceroos, who are ready to srap their way to the World Cup.
It doesn’t matter how ugly or scrappy or brutal it gets – just win.
That’s the message from Socceroos coach Graham Arnold to his players ahead of Australia’s do-or-die World Cup playoff against the United Arab Emirates in Doha on Wednesday morning (AEST).
After a lengthy and arduous campaign filled with lots of highs and too many lows in recent months, there are no more second chances for the Socceroos.
Lose to the UAE and Australia’s hopes of qualifying for a fifth successive World Cup finals tournament are over.
And while beating the UAE won’t guarantee the Socceroos a spot at Qatar 2022, they will remain alive and earn a shot at Peru in next week’s intercontinental playoff that will reward the winner with World Cup qualification.
But the Australians are yet to give Peru a thought.
The only task that matters right now is getting the better of the UAE.
And Arnold doesn’t care how it’s done. so don’t expect pretty football from the Socceroos, who will happily turn the match into a scrap and a dogfight if it guarantees them success.
“I want to see and I will see the Aussie DNA,” Arnold said.
“That Aussie DNA is backs to the wall, run out, get on the pitch, chase, fight, harass and do everything that’s required to win this game.
“At the end of the day, these games are about winning and if that is winning off set-pieces, and scoring off set- pieces, that’s what it’s about – I don’t care.
“It’s all about making sure that we go out there and we give everything we’ve got.”
Arnold said his main job until kick-off was to keep his players relaxed and “not throw too much stuff at them”.
That’s not to say Arnold hasn’t prepared his team for what to expect from the UAE.
“I can’t give too much away tactically, but … we will make sure that we’ve got a game plan for (the UAE’s) transition to attack,” he said.
“We can’t always predict what the opposition will do but most of what we’ve seen from the UAE for the past few years is that they will sit back, try to soak up the pressure, try to wait for a mistake and then try to hit us on the counter, but we’ll be ready for that.”
Arnold expected the match to be decided by “moments”, which suggests that playmakers and potential match-winners Ajdin Hrustic and Aaron Mooy will both start.
Mooy’s progress in camp has delighted Arnold.
Having not played a match since February before he started in Australia’s 2-1 friendly win over Jordan last week, the Shanghai Port midfielder is ready to rise to the occasion.
“He’s in good shape … and he’s prepared very well for this,” Arnold said of Mooy.
“We needed to get him on the field for 11 v 11 (games), and we’ve been able to do some training sessions of 11 v 11 (games) working on the defensive side of things.”
Another dead-ball specialist, Adelaide United winger Craig Goodwin, may also start after Australia’s goals against Jordan were created from a free-kick and a corner taken by him.