Australia coach Graham Arnold claims his side will go ‘all guns blazing’ when they take on Argentina… as Socceroos look to upset the odds against Lionel Messi and Co in round of 16 clash
In Australia they are making much of their football team’s history of matches against Argentina.
They beat them once, 4-1 in 1988, in something called the Bicentennial Gold Cup in Sydney. In 1993 Argentina edged past them in a two-legged play-off for the following year’s World Cup. Socceroos manager Graham Arnold played in that one.
Last year, meanwhile, Australia’s Under 23 team beat Argentina 2-0 at the Olympics in Tokyo and Arnold was the coach.
Australia are hoping to upset the odds after qualifying for the World Cup round of 16
Socceroos boss Graham Arnold insists his side will go ‘all guns blazing’ against Argentina
So in Australia they are clutching at historical straws and telling themselves tonight’s last-16 meeting in Doha could see some version of history repeating itself. Arnold, however, is grateful for just one thing.
‘It’s good we have a short turnaround between the last game and this one,’ he said. ‘It’s only three days. I believe it’s an advantage for us because it means we don’t sit for five days wondering and thinking about the opposition.’
Tonight’s game at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium should be one of the tournament’s great mismatches. Arnold’s team, who beat Tunisia and Denmark to reach this stage, do not have a single player from a major European league.
Sitting next to the coach yesterday was defender Harry Souttar of Stoke City. It will be his job to look after Lionel Messi. At least he will have a height advantage, somebody pointed out.
Arnold stands on the touchline during Australia’s final group stage game against Denmark
Lionel Messi will be looking to breeze past Australia in his search for a World Cup title
But sport does not always follow the lines of common sense and Arnold and his players have made it clear they will not die wondering here tonight.
‘It’s 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts and it’s a battle and a war that we will fight,’ said Arnold. ‘We will go out there all guns blazing. My players are not tired. I can see that in their eyes and their faces. There is no fatigue.
‘They are ready. This is a moment of their lives and they are ready to grab hold of it. When I see them walking down the hall I can see they are ready to go.’
Australia’s World Cup did not begin in particularly promising fashion as they lost 4-1 to France. Argentina did not fare much better, though, going down 2-1 to Saudi Arabia.
Asked about the merits of their opponents, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Australia had a ‘good qualifying campaign’ and a ‘tradition in the World Cup’.
Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insists Australia have a ‘tradition in the World Cup’
Given Arnold was almost sacked when Australia’s attempts to automatically qualify failed — they eventually won a play-off against Peru on penalties — and that this is only the second time they have reached the knockout stage of a World Cup, it was tempting to wonder if Scaloni had them mixed up with someone else.
Regardless, Arnold believes the 20-game qualifying campaign that saw Australia play some of their matches here in Qatar, because of Covid restrictions at home, has only brought his squad together. ‘I think this World Cup campaign has helped to reunite our nation after Covid,’ he said. ‘It has reunited our football.
‘I think the universe is paying us back now. We played only four of those 20 qualifying games at home. We had some hard journeys through Covid and now I am looking at the positives. I honestly believe Covid helped unite this team together.
‘We won six of the seven qualifiers we played here in Qatar. We are familiar with it. This feels like a second home to us.
‘The name Argentina resonates around the world and it’s inspiring to play against them. But you are going to see the best of our players.’