Arnold confident team is on track

Qantas Under 23 coach Graham Arnold is confident his squad’s preparation for the first game against Serbia at the Olympic Games is on track, heading into tomorrow’s friendly game against Japan in Kobe.

Qantas Under 23 coach Graham Arnold is confident his squad-s preparation for the first game against Serbia at the Olympic Games is on track, heading into tomorrow-s friendly game against Japan in Kobe.

Arnold also confirmed that his two available over-age players Jade North and Archie Thompson will start in tomorrow-s match, after missing last Sunday-s match against China in Changchun.

The Qantas Under 23's and the Matildas will feature in a double-header against Japan at the Home Stadium in Kobe on Thursday night, with the Matildas kicking off at 5.00pm AEST, followed by the 23's at 8.00pm AEST.

Despite losing the match against China, Arnold, while disappointed with the performance, wasn-t too worried by it and has no doubt the team moving in the direction.

“Yeah, the good thing is we have got everyone fit and I think we are on the right track,” he said from Kobe in Japan. “We were flat against China and I wasn-t happy with the performance, but there were circumstances around it.

“The good thing was China had more possession than us and we had to work harder, so that was good once again to get the fitness levels up. I think our fitness levels are nearly where they have to be; we-ve still got another 14 days before the first game and its important we maintain that and once we get into Beijing, we-ll taper off back to one session a day and freshen them up.

“I have got 21 players fit; the only one that is a little bit sore; he-s got a sore neck is Matty Simon, but I am sure he should fine by tomorrow.”

Arnold admitted that he has the team training hard at the moment, so they are at their peak come the Serbia game on August 7.

“I have been training them harder than what I would normally do before games and they will continue to do that until we get to Beijing,” he said. “Normally a training session a day before the game goes for 45 minutes, but I have been training them for an hour and a half, mainly to keep them out in the heat to get them physically ready for the games.

“Our main focus is Serbia on August 7; these friendly games give us a great opportunity to try things; to test players in different ways, because with only an 18-man squad we have to be a little more adaptable than normal; It also gives us the opportunity to play in the conditions and that-s why we are here early.”

The addition of both Jade North and Archie Thompson for tomorrow-s match was welcomed by Arnold and will allow him to get more combinations working.

“Both will be starting; both trained fully last night,” he said emphatically. “Jado (Jade North) had a horrible trip up to Changchun where we played China. We flew 10 hours to Shanghai, had a couple hours stopover and then another 2 hour flight to Shenyang and then a four-hour bus trip up to Changchun.

“He had a slight hamstring (strain) after the New Zealand game and with all that travel, we just felt we didn-t want to risk him. I always said I wasn-t going to play Archie against China, because I wanted him to have two weeks of hard training before we put him on the field. He has done that and he has looked great at training, so he will start tomorrow night.”

While Arnold no doubt wants to get a good result against Japan, asked if it was more about preparation rather then the result, he agreed wholeheartedly.

“It-s more about preparation; Japan are a good side as we know, but its more about getting a few players used to the way they need to play. (Neil) Kilkenny for example and Adam Federici will play tomorrow night for his first game with the Olyroos, to get him used to the way we are playing, but also defending on set pieces, as it will be different for him.

“With Archie and Jado involved, it-s about introducing the newer players in and at the same time, getting our match fitness up. Tactically we-ll be ready for what the Japanese have got, but it-s more about our match fitness and preparation for the first game.”

With the addition of Thompson and North, Arnold also said he will field a different looking side in tomorrow-s match, possibly giving a bigger indication of who will be in his starting eleven.

“Much different; I didn-t have any over-age players for the China game and I tried a few players in different positions. Some were positive and some were negative, so we are starting to settle on combinations now.

“We are starting to settle on our starting line-up, but at the same time we need to make sure we have 18 have players prepared and ready for the first game, because at this stage there are still a few positions up grabs.

The match is likely to played in front of a full house at the Home Stadium in Kobe and Arnold thinks that will be good for the team, especially after the hard training on the last week.

“It will be a full house,” he said. “The Japanese, they always support their national teams unbelievable well. It-s a beautiful stadium; we trained on it yesterday here in Kobe and the big crowd should give us a little bit more adrenalin, as the boys are a little bit fatigued.

“Once they see a full house and the match atmosphere, they should kick on.”

The former national team coach also said the third of his over-age players David Carney will arrive in camp with the team in Korea on Friday.

“He is here on Friday, it-s a problem, but you get no FIFA protection with over-age players. Sheffield United has been great; I-ve been talking to their manager Kevin Blackwell; he-s had three weeks of pre-season; he-s played 4-5 games, so match fitness isn-t a problem and they are releasing him to come across on Friday for two weeks to acclimatize and prepare for the heat, so we-re happy with that.”