Chemistry & competitive edge: Goodwin on launchpad for road to Qatar

Craig Goodwin believes a week-long training camp in Dubai will serve as the perfect preparation before the Caltex Socceroos embark on their journey to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2022™.

The 27-year-old attacker reunited with his international teammates on Monday for the first time since the June friendly against Korea Republic in Busan. 

With Australia’s four Group B rivals kicking off their campaigns on Friday, September 6 (AEST), Graham Arnold’s side start with a bye ahead of their opener on Wednesday, September 11 (AEST).

The Green and Gold’s first opponents, Kuwait, play host to Nepal in round one, while Jordan to go Chinese Taipei, allowing Arnold and his staff further chance to scout their Asian Football Confederation rivals.

That leaves the ideal window for the Caltex Socceroos to settle back into each other’s company and strike up some combinations during their six-day stay in the United Arab Emirates, according to Goodwin.

“It’s been a little while since the last camp,” Goodwin said. 

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“After that break in between, it’s good to try and get a few good sessions in to get the team cohesion and the chemistry clicking again.

“We’ve got good time to prepare for this match and I think we’re going to do very well.”

Goodwin may feel like plenty of time has passed since that encounter at the Busan Asiad Main Stadium, perhaps because of the big changes in his world.

Following a stellar Hyundai A-League campaign in 2018/19 where he top scored for Adelaide United with 10 goals and led the league in assists with nine, Goodwin unsurprisingly attracted the attention of other clubs.

In July, the South Australian native made the decision to leave his hometown team and join up with Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Wehda.

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After adjusting to life in the Holy City of Mecca, Goodwin turned out twice for his new team in the Saudi Pro League before making the short journey to meet up with the Caltex Socceroos in Dubai.

“We spent three weeks in Slovenia on training camp and played a lot of games there,” said the four-cap Caltex Socceroo.

“Then we started the season two weeks ago and I’ve played the first two games of the season. 

“It’s been an interesting start, it’s very different with a lot of things with the lifestyle and the style of football as well. 

“It’s a good competition with some good players as well so I’m looking forward to the rest of the challenge there.”

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Craig Goodwin
Craig Goodwin in Caltex Socceroos camp

If the three-month break between international meet-ups in 2019 seemed like a while to Goodwin, the gap between his previous Caltex Socceroos hit outs must feel like an age. 

His last national team appearance came after signing for Dutch outfit Sparta Rotterdam in May 2016, three years after his first pair of caps in July 2013.

A return to the global stage is a long time coming for Goodwin, who relished the opportunity to prove himself to Arnold during a 73-minute run out in the 1-0 defeat against Korea Republic.

“I was really happy to get game time and we had a good match with a completely new squad against a good team,” he said.

“It was a positive camp and a lot of good things to take out of it. Now the camp here has some fresh faces again but a lot of mainstays as well. 

“We’ll be looking to get off to a really good start but, for myself personally, it’s positive to get the minutes and hopefully here I can push for more.”

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Craig Goodwin
Goodwin in training


Making the Caltex Socceroos squad is an achievement for Goodwin, but time on the field in FIFA World Cup qualifiers is far from a guarantee.

Arnold has selected a group which gives him a range of attacking options at his disposal, including a quartet of wide players on strong form for their European clubs. 

Matthew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Ajdin Hrustic and Brandon Borrello are all getting regular minutes in the 2019/20 campaign, but there is no way Goodwin is shying away from the challenge.

“The competition, here, we have a lot of good players, a lot of good attacking players, playing at good clubs and doing really well,” he said.

“I think for myself, it’s about giving 100% in the training sessions and trying to show exactly what I can do and if I can bring something different to the team. 

“If I get the opportunity, there I’ll try and take it with both hands. 

“We do have a very good squad here and I’m looking forward to the competition and I think it’ll bring out the best performance in everyone.”

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HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE: Three players in Caltex Socceroos Squad

Watch Kuwait v Australia from 1:30am AEST on Wednesday 11 September live on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports, and via the My Football Live App, Live, Fast and Data Free for Telstra mobile customers.

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