Arnold’s promise for next Caltex Socceroos generation

Caltex Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold believes the Australia U-23 national team is the perfect platform for players to face quality opposition and take their professional careers to the next level. 

Australia's U-23s qualified for the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship earlier this week – the event will be held next January in Thailand – following wins over Cambodia and Chinese Taipei, as well as a 2-2 draw with Korea Republic.

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Arnold is pleased with the crop of youngsters coming through the system, but believes there are other players who are on the brink of shining.

“I will unearth more, because I believe there are more out there,” Arnold said.

“With the right preparation and another 20 international games within the next 12 months, I guarantee I will get six or seven out of that group to go into the second half of our World Cup campaign.

“That was my plan when I took over, when Mile Jedinak retired, when Timmy Cahill retired.”

You need depth. The depth comes from underneath.”

It seems Arnold’s goal with Australia U-23s is not only to unearth youngsters for the national team, but to help guide them to greater heights.

Arnold explained the importance of the junior national teams, and the pathway they create for players on their professional journey.

Olyroos v Cambodia
Celebrating success: The Australia U-23 side enjoy a goal in their recent fixture against Cambodia

“I took this Olyroos job on to help the kids, and that’s what I’m there for – to try and help the kids become Olympians, but also to help the kids with their careers and to help them become Socceroos,” Arnold said.

“These kids need to have the right preparation to try and achieve their goals in their careers and also for the Socceroos, the growth of the Socceroos… this group is so important.

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“What I need people to understand is unless we get everything right underneath the Socceroos, we will find it tougher and tougher to create a great Socceroos team.

“If there are no kids coming through, we can’t just hope that someone is going to come out of nowhere. 

“The junior development side of the national teams is for me so important, I just want what’s best for the kids and I want what’s best for the game.”

This type of development is no more evident than in the players who have turned out for the Australia U-23 national team, before going on to become senior internationals.

Arnold noted players who, following their performances in Olympic Games campaigns, forged stellar careers in the club and international arenas.

“Vince Grella, Mark Bresciano, Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire, Carl Valeri, Brett Holman didn’t play for the Socceroos until after they were Olympians,” the coach said.

“Those five or six players went on to play [almost 400] games for the Socceroos together.

“That’s how important this campaign is – I do believe there are more kids out there that I didn’t pick.”

Vince Grella, Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill
Australia's players celebrate at the 2006 FIFA World Cup