Graham Arnold has been associated with Australia’s national football system for over two decades now. A former Socceroos striker, Arnold had an outstanding career, scoring 19 goals in 56 appearances. In A-League, he spent the prime of his career playing for Sydney United. After retirement, he also managed the club for two seasons.
Arnold’s stint with the Australian FA began in 2000 when he joined it as an assistant coach. He worked with Guus Hiddink during Australia’s FIFA World Cup 2006 campaign. After the Dutch coach’s departure, Arnold managed Australia in the 2007 Asian Cup, where it lost to Japan in the quarterfinals.
He also managed the Australian U-23 side in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Nearly a decade later, with the experience of coaching three A-League clubs, he would return to the Australian set-up to begin his second stint. In March 2018, he replaced Bert van Marwijk following Australia’s disastrous performance in the Russia World Cup, where it finished at the bottom of its group.
Under Arnold, Australia has witnessed both lows and highs. In the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Australia - the then-defending champion - was knocked out by Jordan in the quarterfinals.
The road to Qatar has not been smooth either. Although Australia registered a world record for the most consecutive wins (11) in the Qatar World Cup qualifiers in 2021, a streak of defeats against Saudi Arabia and Japan (twice) and dropped points against the Saudis, China and Oman forced Australia to play in the playoffs.
Australia could confirm the ticket to the Gulf nation only after winning the playoffs against the UAE and Peru in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The credit for these wins must go to Arnold and his 4-2-3-1 formation. His focus on scoring from free kicks and transitional play has long been hailed in Australia. During the playoffs, he brought the tactic to good effect and helped Australia secure its fifth consecutive World Cup berth.
Arnold’s side, slotted in Group D, will fancy its chance against Tunisia, defending champion France and Euro semifinalist Denmark in the World Cup.
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