Arnold no clearer on Beijing make-up

Qantas Under 23 coach Graham Arnold is no clearer to being able to name a definitive squad for the Beijing Olympics Football Tournament, following the teams successful Intercontinental Cup in Malaysia.

Qantas Under 23 coach Graham Arnold is no clearer to being able to name a definitive squad for the Beijing Olympics Football Tournament, following the teams successful Intercontinental Cup in Malaysia.

The Olyroos, minus a host of regular squad members, due to club and Socceroos commitments, plus injuries, finished runners-up to a full strength Nigeria in the final, played in Kuala Lumpur.

Arnold says he could name only four definites for Beijing, with many of the fringe players giving him a ‘nice headache- in having to decide who will make up the final 18-man squad.

“The boys are pushing themselves to the max, which is good to see,” Arnold said, as he came back into camp with the Socceroos to assist with the World Cup qualifying preparations. “Out of 30 on the list, I probably had 12 definites at the start of the tournament and I probably only got 4 definites now.

“Some players are unselecting themselves at the moment and some are selecting themselves, which is making my job hard, but it-s a good problem to have.”

Arnold was really pleased with the players effort, especially with how they coped with the steamy conditions, which will be similar to what they will face in China in August during the games.

“They went fantastically well. I think with the conditions and playing five games in nine days, they were excellent.

“We played very good football and we should have beaten Nigeria in the final, but it wasn-t to be that way; we didn-t take our chances this time.

“Overall it was a fantastic experience for the players and replicated exactly what they will face in Beijing with the heat."

Central Coast Mariners striker Matt Simon was one player to impress, finishing the tournament as the highest scorer with five goals, which included a hat-trick against Togo.

“Matty did exceptionally well and he has put the pressure on a few other players now. It-s not just because of the goals, but because of the way he played and he can handle the heat and that-s one of the biggest issues; being able to handle the conditions and he can handle it very easily.

“Spase Dilevski was a nice surprise. Spase has gone to Romania and we haven-t seen him for a year. He is probably in the best shape he has ever been in; he-s lost a lot of weight and he did extremely well.”

The other conundrum for Arnold, is which, if any, overage players he will bring into the squad for Beijing. He is allowed to bring in three, but Arnold is not sure he will need three; such is the depth of his under 23 players.

“It-s not definite that I will pick three; it-s available for me to pick three, but these young boys are doing so well that you have got to have a look at the situation,” he said.

“If the overage players can-t come into the week before the tournament, then it-s a waste a time bringing them in, because they will never acclimatize. It-s crucial that we-ve got to get the overage players released for the three weeks before Beijing, otherwise it makes it too difficult for them.

“Also a big part of it, is the guys that you do bring in, fit into the group extremely well and don-t have a too dominant personality, because we-ve got a wonderful team spirit. The boys have been together for two years already; they-ve played up around 25 games as a group and done extremely well.

“So it-s important anybody that I bring in, can fit into the team dynamics as well.”

As the only other team at the tournament, going to the Olympics, Nigeria had its full strength side, which has given Arnold a lot of confidence heading to into the final preparations for the Olympics.

“They had their full Olympic side there and if that-s their full Olympic side then that gives me great hope for Beijing. With all the problems we had there, with (Mark) Milligan and (Ruben) Zadkovich sick (for the final), as well as the five players that came back and the other players I didn-t have, it proves we are in good stead at the moment.

“Look we are in a tough group, there is no secret there, but our preparation is going to be very good. We-ve already had four weeks of preparation and we have another two and a half months before the Olympics, so we are going to be very well prepared and acclimatized. We are going to leave no stone unturned to make sure we are prepared and that-s the main thing.

“If any nation does go into the Olympics not prepared for those conditions they could slip up, so we-ll make sure we are not one of them.”