Graham Arnold not expecting any 'surprises' following FIFA World Cup qualifying draw
Socceroos Head Coach Graham Arnold is confident his squad has what it takes to book their spot at a fifth-straight FIFA World Cup Finals, after Australia's opponents in the Asian Qualifiers final phase Group B were revealed this week.
The Socceroos will take on Japan, Saudi Arabia, China PR, Oman, and Vietnam in the Final Round of AFC Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, with the top two teams guaranteed a place at next year's tournament.
Australia will come up against some familiar foes throughout their upcoming fixtures, that are set to take place between September 2021 and March 2022.
Yet again Japan will provide opposition for a high-stakes affair - an opponent the Green and Gold have faced in every qualification campaign since 2010.
Arnold is not only looking forward to the challenge of taking on Asia's highest-ranked nation, but will also enjoy catching up with Japan Head Coach Hajime Moriyasu. The two were teammates at J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima during the late 1990s, and will both be overseeing their nation's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Men's Football Tournament campaigns this month.
However there will not be too much time for re-aquaintance, with a busy schedule of vital qualification match-ups on the horizon.
“I think it was a great draw for us,” said Arnold following Thursday's draw.
“Obviously when you get to this stage of the World Cup qualifiers every game is going to be tough, but the fact that we have got a mixture of Middle East nations as well as well as East Asian nations is great.
We have been to those places before, so it won’t throw up any surprises to us. Overall, I feel that it is a very good draw for us and it is one that we are looking forward to."
Socceroos fans will be all too familiar with Australia's path to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which saw them forced to navigate the tricky inter-continental playoff stages after a third-placed finish behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Graham Arnold is confident that the prospect of coming up against the same two contenders again at this stage is a positive for his side.
Additionally, the fact that the Socceroos advanced through their first set of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in perfect fashion, despite playing seven out of eight matches in tricky conditions away from home, allows the former Socceroo to believe that his side are capable of overcoming whatever the upcoming fixtures throw at them.
“All the staff are very happy with the draw," he shared.
"We are very confident and we have got a lot of belief in our boys. We are getting used to being and playing away from home – especially playing a lot of football here in the Middle East. The boys are getting more and more comfortable with it which is fantastic."
"It is always great when you have got some clarity around things and now we can start planning. One of the biggest things obviously is being able to play our games in Australia, and if we can do that, or we can’t. That is one thing that the organisation (Football Australia) will get some clarity on over the next week or so, and then it is about playing either at home, or playing away from home. We’ve still got those things in front of us to look at and deal with but overall it is a great draw.”