Arnold praises Socceroos' mentality following 'really tough camp'

With a flawless second round of FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying out of the way, Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold feels the mentality fostered by his players' achievements leaves them in perfect stead for the challenges that lie ahead. 

The Socceroos completed the second round of FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar 2022 qualifying after topping Group B with a perfect eight wins from eight matches.

The path now moves onto the third round, with 12 nations being split up into two groups of six.

Socceroos Qatar Hub

But before Arnold turns his attention to what lies next, he has had the chance to reflect on a record-breaking camp.

“It was a great achievement, I’m getting goosebumps now talking about the boys because they were just incredible," explained the Socceroos Head Coach. 

It was a really, really tough camp mentally but the culture that we’ve built, the family culture of brotherhood and the family of the Socceroos, they really stuck together, they had some great fun.

“It was a really tough camp mentally because we were in a real heavy lockdown. We weren't able to go and do anything.

“The team kept a really positive mentality and that was the message that I was driving for a long, long time. What the boys achieved was fantastic. I look forward to what’s next.”

Graham Arnold
Graham Arnold had the chance to work with 31 players as the Socceroos returned for the first time since November 2019 this month

The Socceroos cannot be certain of what the future holds with the ever-changing COVID-19 landscape, but the draw for the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifying will take place on July 1.

The final stage of the qualification campaign will see Australia drawn in a six-team group with the possibility of facing opponents like Japan, China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

READ MORE: What's next for the Socceroos in FIFA World Cup qualifying

However, there is one nation in particular that Arnold is hoping the Socceroos have the opportunity to face: Iran.

Incredibly, Australia and Iran have not played each other for 23 years. Many would be quick to recall the last time the two teams met - as the Socceroos infamously blew a two-goal lead and the chance to end the nation’s long exile from the World Cup finals at the MCG in 1997.

With that night marking the last time Graham Arnold pulled on the Green and Gold as a player, the now-coach has redemption on his mind. 

“Bring Iran on," enforced Arnold. 

It was the last time I kicked a ball for the national team. I retired straight after that game and it’s a memory that I want to fix.

“It’s amazing how many people still talk about it. Mentally, we switched off. Instead of driving the 2-0 forward, we switched off and they got back straight in the game to 2-2.

“It was devastating. Seeing Terry Venables after the game, the way he was – it was the most unjust result he said he’s ever seen in his life. It was a sad way to end my international career.”

Australia Iran
The Socceroos' last meeting with Iran is one that lives long in the memory of Australian football fans for all the wrong reasons

The first matches of the Socceroos third round of qualifying are due to be played in September, with the location of the fixtures to be confirmed.

Despite the lingering uncertainty, for Arnold one thing is for sure: the mentality of the group will stay the same no matter where they play.

“If we get Iran, wherever we play, it doesn't bother me and I think that is what we drove with the players," he said. 

"I don't know if we'll play in Australia at all this year and where we'll play overseas, I've got no idea.

“But it doesn’t matter who we play, where we play, we go out on the pitch expecting to win every game, and we play our way. That’s with a lot of energy and our principles remain the same.”