Socceroos and Olyroos Head Coach Graham Arnold is optimistic that the next 12 months will prove to be a success on the pitch for Australia's national teams.
March 2021 is currently scheduled as the date where the Socceroos finally recommence their qualification campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™️ qualification campaign - 16 months after the final whistle blew in Amman after Australia's 1-0 win over Jordan.
Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has rocked the world and several opportunities to see Arnold's sides in action have been postponed.
The Socceroos coach is determined to cast aside persisting global uncertainty and is confident the team will be primed to hit the ground running as the road to Qatar continues.
“We’re not using COVID as an excuse, at this stage it’s just something that has happened in everyone's life," he said.
“Everyone's had to deal with it in different ways on different days, but the most important thing is how we come together.
“At the moment our full focus is on getting together to play games in March and continuing our qualification path from there.”
Arnold has been keeping a keen eye on the Socceroos squad members in club action throughout Europe, Asia and the A-League over the past year.
After everything he has seen and experienced, he believes the team have forged a culture that will see them pick up exactly where they left off back in 2019.
“I’m excited to finally get the players back together in camp,” Arnold said.
“It’s a long time since we've been away but when they get together there’s always a family atmosphere.
“We’ve been in constant contact with everyone overseas every week and watched them play with their clubs.
"So many players are out there representing their country at their clubs very well. They need to continue to work hard, and we look forward to seeing more from them first-hand."
At U-23's level, nearly twelve months have passed since the Olyroos clinched qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Men's Football Tournament.
Arnold is pleased to see how many members of that squad who were plying their trade in Europe at the time have now returned to the A-League and contributed to the prominence of youth on Australian shores this season.
"They’ve done very, very well and they bring an energy to the A-League - it's been very refreshing," the former Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners coach reflected.
"They're obviously going to make mistakes but as long as they learn from those mistakes and they continue on that journey, I've got a lot of belief in these kids.
"That's why I keep saying I believe we'll go to the Olympics and give it a shake for a medal. COVID has been a disaster for a lot of people but for these kids, if anything, it's been a blessing because now they're getting more time, more minutes."
As a result of this promising trend, Arnold admits he will now face a number of headaches and difficult decisions when it comes to selecting future squads. But above all, the Olyroos boss sees this as a blessing.
"This time last year we were still in Thailand qualifying for the Olympics, and (for that tournament) I struggled to put a squad together," he recalls.
"If I'd had to pick an Olympic team for Tokyo 2020 then, it would have been an easy job.
"Now, it's going to be very difficult. There are players everywhere pushing for one of those 18 positions to go to Tokyo, and they're doing exceptionally well."
Australia's remaining second round fixtures in 2021 are currently as follows:
- Australia vs Kuwait (location TBC): Thursday 25th March
- Nepal vs Australia (Dasharath Stadium, Kathmandu, Nepal): Tuesday 30th March
- Australia vs Chinese Taipei (location TBC): Monday 7th June
- Australia vs Jordan (location TBC): Tuesday 15th June
In 2021, matches in round three of AFC qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️ are currently due to be held on Thursday 2nd September, Tuesday 7th September, Thursday 7th October, Tuesday 12thOctober, Thursday 11th November, and Tuesday 16th November.