The winning run is done but nomadic Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has drawn high praise from Football Australia boss James Johnson for putting Australia in pole position for World Cup qualification.
Despite Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to eternal rivals Japan in Tokyo, Arnold’s men sit second in Group B in one of the automatic qualification places for Qatar 2022.
They will reclaim the top spot if they beat Saudi Arabia in their first home fixture in two years in Sydney on November 11.
Extending their record-breaking winning stretch to 12 games was always a tall order against a desperate Samurai Blue.
Johnson, a former Brisbane Strikers midfielder, was a member of the Joeys squad which reached the final of the U-17 World Cup in 1999, but suffered an injury on the eve of the tournament that kept him out of the matches.
He instead travelled with the team as an unofficial cheerleader and was presented with a runners-up medal.
He's a strong believer in Arnold's methodology, saying the Socceroos boss has developed a talent pool deep enough to put the loss behind them and capitalize on having three of their remaining five qualifiers on home soil.
“Graham has been in charge for 22 games now - and 20 of those have been offshore due to the all the complexities and challenges surrounding Covid-19,” Johnson told FTBL.
“He’s been operating outside Australia since May, based in the Middle East and the UK, and what he’s achieved in adverse circumstances deserves recognition.
“When you play so many games overseas in all sorts of conditions it’s never going to be easy, it’s been logistically difficult but Arnie has embraced the challenges.
“He’s kept the momentum going, whilst also incorporating new players into his squad without diminishing the end product - which is results.
“There’s a football wisdom about everything he does - which involves all the little details he pays such attention to, from scouting players to match analysis and tactics.
“He’s always planning ahead for every possible eventuality.”
Johnson believes the defeat against Japan will only spur Australia to greater heights with China (away), Vietnam (home), Oman (away) and Japan again (home) to come after the Saudi clash.
“Arnie has instilled a lot of resilience and belief in this group of players and whilst things didn’t go our way against Japan, I think you’ll see the team continuing to get even better in the remaining group games,” he added.
“We’re particularly excited to have the Socceroos playing on home soil in the coming matches in front of friends, family and a fan base which has been itching to see the team play again.
"To play so many matches away and mostly in empty stadiums has been difficult.
"Arnie is a driven individual who demands as much from the players as he does of himself and I firmly believe that in front of home fans, this team can take it to the next level.”