Arnold has faced plenty of blowback as the Socceroos have dropped crucial points against Japan, Saudi Arabia, China and Oman to leave their automatic qualification hopes for Qatar 2022 on a knife-edge.


  • Socceroos captain Mat Ryan is convinced Graham Arnold's side can halt their recent slide in the win-or-bust duels with Japan and Saudi Arabia.
  • The Socceroos need maximum points from this month's FIFA window to qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup.
  • Ryan claims rabid backing from supporters at Sydney's Stadium Australia could be the key to beating Japan.

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Gloveman Ryan, who was part of the Socceroos side which only made it to Russia 2018 through the playoffs, is adamant team togetherness is unbreakable, and hometown fervour at Sydney’s Stadium Australia on Thursday week will ignite a flame that will become a furnace when they tackle Group B leaders Saudi Arabia in Riyadh five days later. 

With maximum points needed to avoid another precarious playoff journey, Ryan told FTBL: “We are always disappointed when come the full time whistle we haven’t won and/or haven’t played to the standards we set ourselves. 

“In our ambition to right the wrongs since the last window (in particular a costly 2-2 draw in Oman) Arnie and the coaching staff have gone about organising Zoom sessions to make sure that as a playing group we are learning what we need to do better.

“We’d love to live in a perfect world where we play the perfect match every time we step out, and win every match.

"But reality at the highest level, and especially with international football, isn’t like that.

“The things that make a difference are always the small details. There have been games where we haven’t done enough to warrant victory and we are working to rectify that.

“Things aren’t just handed to you in international football and there is no margin for error.”

Arnold has borne the brunt of the brickbats from pundits and fans as Australia’s 11-game winning run evaporated into dropped points and uncertainly off the back of November’s narrow 2-1 to loss in Japan. 

“Arnie is fine - he uses these moments to bounce back as any successful person does,” explained the Real Sociedad keeper.

“He’s not content with where we are at (sitting third in Group B) and is putting all his expertise, knowledge and know-how together to get us where we need to be to achieve our goals.

“During his reign at the Mariners when I was there things didn’t always go the way we wanted. 

"But we copped it on the chin, learned from it and came out of the other side stronger.

“That’s the mindset we have with the Socceroos and it starts with Arnie and flows from there. When we fall short we use it as motivation to build for the next triumph.

“We go through everything together, we’re all one group, and there’s a buzz and excitement going into this next camp.”

Ryan likens the visit of the Samurai Blue to momentous occasions of the past, when febrile and fanatical support acted as an adrenaline infusion.

“It’s the biggest game in Australia for a very long time, on par with the 2015 Asian Cup Final and even back in 2005 when we qualified against Uruguay,” he said.

“I was at the 2005 game as a fan and played in the Asian cup Final, And I remember very well basking in the ecstasy of it all. “To have that opportunity again as a player this window coming up is a great feeling to have.

“The fans are the heart and soul of the team and we need to work together to take it to the opposition - in this case Japan. I can’t wait.

“If you don’t have optimism then what do you have? But it’s more than optimism … its belief. 

“We’re all counting down the days and can’t wait to be walking out to a sea of green and gold. 

“I encourage anyone who can to get out there and cheer loud and proud and together we can take another step in qualifying for Qatar. 

“We’ve just got to keep winning, starting with Japan.

“The last time we qualified for World Cup was through the playoffs - but we’re not even contemplating that right now.

“Our future is still in our own hands - we start with a win against Japan and then we focus on winning against Saudi. 

"One game at a time like it's always been."


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