Graham Arnold Squad Announcement Interview

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold gives us a brief insight into the naming of the squad for the 2006 World Cup finals.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold gives us a brief insight into the naming of the 23-man squad for the 2006 World Cup finals.

What were the main factors in deciding who made the 23-man squad?

Mainly looked at the Uruguay games where we had the same 18 on the team sheet twice, which was mainly down to the short of time that Guus had to work with players in the lead up to that game. After November 16, he said he wanted to see more, scout more players that he hadn-t seen because he wasn-t convinced with the 23-man squad from those two games. We had the camp in Holland in March and it was decided to only invite the same 17 or 18 players along, because once again he didn-t want to send a signal that the squad was settled. I gave him a list of an extra 15 players to be looked at and in that time, Johan Neeskens has obviously come on board and he has been watching players, as well as PSV scouts have been around watching them, so players that have missed out can have no complaints that they weren-t looked at or they didn-t have the opportunity to be in front of Guus. Since November there hasn-t been time to do it, because we have had only one game and that was on a non-FIFA date, which meant he was unavailable. So the players have been judged on their club, which is where they show there normal form. So the conclusion is, we have named a 23-man squad that is very adaptable, athletic squad and players can play in numerous positions and when you have three tough games in that short space of time at the start of the tournament, they are key factors in the selections.

You mention about flexibility in the squad, do you think you have achieved that across the park?

I think so. I think we can easily play with a back three or a back four like we did in the second half against Uruguay. In midfield, we have got a lot of options, because if you look at our midfielders it-s very, very strong. In an attacking sense we can either play with one striker or play with two, with Aloisi and Viduka, or Harry (Kewell) pushing up alongside either of them or even Archie Thompson. There are a lot of different solutions to go tactical with that side.

Was the last three or four positions a difficult decision to come to?

It is always difficult when you have to fit so many players into a 23-man squad, especially when it involves players that have been involved for a long time. You tend to know what they can do and you know what they are like as people and that-s always the hardest thing. You have to put aside the emotion part of it and look at the football side of it. I think we showed our hand after the Uruguay games with 17 or 18 players pretty much safe and I had said publicly that there were four or five places up for grabs and show Guus, Johan and myself what they can do, because there was an opportunity there. People can-t come back and say that was a bluff, because there are four or five new players in the squad.

Mark Milligan and Josh Kennedy are probably the selections from left-field, as both are uncapped for the Socceroos. You have obviously seen a lot of Mark Milligan and Johan has watched Josh Kennedy.

Johan actually saw Mark in Vietnam as well and he was excellent over there. Personally I like Mark in a more central position and if we play with a back three and if something happened to Lucas Neill, well Mark could definitely fill in for that role, because he is adapted to that position. He is also a youngster and Guus saw him at the Under 20 World Cup in Holland and was impressed with him then. Mark was going to be in squad for the first Holland camp initially, but he had to have the groin operation, so he was a little bit behind, although he always been foremost in our minds. With Josh, it is a surprise selection for a lot people, but he has been monitored for quite a while, even when Frank Farina was in charge, because he is totally different to what we have got up front. We have got fast mobile players up front; we-ve got players like John Aloisi and Mark Viduka who can play with their back to goal. Josh gives us a different type of player in that he is very powerful in the air and he is tall and he create problems for an opposition defence if we have to end up chasing the game or need to play a different style, he would help us in that change.

We had the very sad withdrawal of Tony Vidmar from the squad on Tuesday. That must have been pretty heartbreaking, given the service he has given to the national team?

For me it was shattering, because I first played with him in 1991 against England, which I think was his first game and when I was captain at NAC Breda in Holland (where Tony currently plays), the club was looking for a left back and I recommended Tony highly and he came across. We basically lived in each other-s pockets for two years and we are very good friends. As a coach for the last five or six years, he has been an absolute dream to coach, as he is consummate professional, but most importantly what we will miss with Tony, is not just his experience but his adaptability. We have played him right across the backline in the national team and he can fill all roles just as good as each other. People will look back at certain campaigns and there is something they always remember. In 1993 it was Maradona, 1997 it was the Iran game after leading 2-0, while in 2001 the picture most would have in there heads, is the picture of Tony on the front page of the newspapers walking from the field in tears.

He actually thought that was his last chance at playing in a World Cup finals, didn-t he?

I actually talked him out of retiring, because there was still a long way to go and I didn-t want to see him make a decision he would regret later. I constantly in talk with Tony not to retire and if anyone, he deserved to go the World Cup, as much or if not more than any of the players, because he has been a great ambassador for the game, always one of the first ones to put his hands to play for Australia. My lasting memory of Tony as a player, was the penalty shootout (against Uruguay), where (Marco) Bresciano was supposed to take our third penalty was injured. Guus asked to go and sort out the penalty takers and a few of the other players who I asked didn-t fancy, which is very normal in that situation, and you don-t want them to if they are not confident. But Tony said ‘I will take it, its payback time- and that was his night of redemption and all Australians should be proud that he played for our national team.

Has he got the character to overcome this condition (irregular heart beat) and do you think he will play again?

I don-t think Tony will want to finish this way. He will want to finish his way and in the immediate future, medically it-s down to what he discusses with the doctors and what can be done. I am pretty sure he would like to come back and have one last season in the Hyundai A-League and finish it his way and not in a bad way.

Finally, is this squad good enough to get us past at least the first round and hopefully much further into the tournament?

People often ask me what success is. What success is, we go away with a positive attitude, be confident and we all play as a team to the best of our ability. If we do that then anything is possible. I think we have the players that can physically handle a big tournament; they won-t be overawed, for example Viduka and Schwarzer have just played in a UEFA Cup final, Harry (Kewell) is playing in a FA Cup final on the weekend, so it doesn-t get much bigger than that. As long as we reach our potential as a team, whatever happens results wise, will it be deemed a success.