After three wins to start the final phase of qualifying, the Arnie train was chugging confidently towards the top of the hill... After last night's debacle, the situation has changed dramatically.
So we lost.
So our goal in the first half should have stood.
Yes, we had a bunch of injuries and Covid pull-outs, but so did Japan.
The main thing is this – we were three games for three wins and then completely fell apart. A main reason for that was that Arnie didn’t pick our best players.
Rhyan Grant, for example, has been pretty much useless this campaign. He used to have an amazing motor up and down that right wing and was dangerous in attack. Did he make just one contribution to our attack tonight?
It is an absolute disgrace that Nathaniel Atkinson wasn’t picked earlier, and an even bigger disgrace that he didn’t play against Japan.
It is also a disgrace that a player as strong as Tilio didn’t start given the terrible form of Awer Mabil in his last few Socceroos starts.
Maybe the biggest disgrace of all is that Mark Birighitti wasn’t picked at all given the form of all other goalkeepers.
Mat Ryan is barely even playing right now. Sure, he’s been one of our best ever but you only get picked when you’re doing well for your club. He had a decent first half but screwed up big time last night and it’s time to give someone else a try. Birighitti is by far the best Australian keeper right now, and he wasn’t even in the squad FFS!
And that’s why Arnie has to go. He doesn’t pick the best players – he picks his old mates. (Unlike Ange, who famously has no mates among the players. That way he can drop them without trouble to his conscience when necessary.)
So now we enter the repechage against the third best team from the other half of the draw, and then the fifth best team (if we get that far) from South America.
The team has to change completely.
Not just personnel – it has to be coach, players, shape, strategy, everything!
We need a completely new broom with a new ethos. We need players with the game and belief to take us ahead.
The game against Saudi ought to be used as a free kick – to work out who is up to the task of getting us into the World Cup.
I have no more faith in Arnie – I’d go for Rene Meulensteen as caretaker for this game but then replace him for the play offs. Maybe Bielsa (if he'd take the job now) but in all honesty (and this will see people calling for my blood) - I'd take Kevin Muscat.
Sure, he was an appalling thug in his playing days, but he's a successful coach and absolutely gets the game. He would galvanise the team.
My eleven for the next phase would be:
Atkinson Sainsbury Degenek King
Boyle Rogic Tilio
With a bench of Ryan, Mooy, D’Agostino, Rowles, Hrustic, Devlin, Genreau, Nisbet, Nabbout, Good, Piscopo, Goodwin, Mohammed Toure and a bunch of others in Europe who need to be capped.
The likes of Atkinson, Stensness, McGree, Genreau and Devlin are the types of hard players we need to restore the kind of physical superiority we traditionally have over Asian teams. The likes of Tilio and Toure are the cutting edge we lack.
On top of all that Arnie showed his complete contempt for his position as Australian coach by walking his effing dog (with Covid) a couple of days before a crucial match in a World Cup campaign.
Are you absolutely kidding?
Sorry Arnie. I used to be on board your train but the bridge is down, the brakes have failed and the driver's asleep at the wheel. I'm diving for the exit before it's too late.
We won’t be going to Qatar unless Arnie is gone.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in 2022.