'It's time to step up': Arnold's challenge to Socceroos for crucial qualifiers
Graham Arnold wants his Socceroos to forget the past and seize their opportunity as they prepare for two crucial FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers.
Arnold named a 25-player squad on Friday for the matches against Vietnam in Melbourne (January 27), followed by a trip to Oman (February 1).
After starting this phase of qualifying with three straight wins, Australia's road to Qatar has stalled with two draws and a defeat from the last three games at the end of last year.
It's left the Socceroos outside the automatic qualification spots in Group B and needing to bounce back to form quickly if they are to reach Qatar without having to navigate through the playoffs.
"As I will say to the boys when they turn up here, that's all in the past. That's last year," Arnold told reporters after revealing his squad.
"We are here today, where we have everything in our own hands.
"We have four games that we have to play between now and qualifying for Qatar and I expect to win four games."
Arnold made nine changes to his squad from the last round of qualifiers, including the return of influential playmakers Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic.
There is also a youthful flavour to his selection, with A-League-based trio Marco Tilio, Joel King and Kye Rowles all a chance to make their senior national team debuts.
Asked if the trio were ready for such a pressure-cooker environment that these upcoming qualifiers pose, Arnold declared: "Yeah 100%.
"If you're talking about the younger players, they showed me during the Olympic campaign the qualities that they do have.
The kid [Tilio] has a great talent and skills and that x-factor that a lot of players don't have.
Arnold added: "With the A-League starting later, I wasn't really able to pick A-League players in the first three windows but you can see them getting rid of the ring rust now.
"I've picked players that mainly that are getting match minutes, I think that's very important to us that they are fit and ready to go."
A huge home crowd is expected to welcome the Socceroos for next Thursday's clash with Vietnam at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Australia's first match in Victoria in more than four years.
Following that clash, Arnold's squad will head to Muscat a few days later to take on Oman in a match that is sure to have big ramifications in Australia's hopes of automatic qualification for Qatar.
"The energy from the boys has been great and the mentality, but the boys know it's time to step up," Arnold said.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar (Final Round)
Matchday 7: Australia v Vietnam
Date: Thursday, 27 January 2022
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne, Australia
Kick-off: 8:10pm AEDT
Tickets: Limited tickets remaining via Ticketek
Broadcast: Live and free in Australia on 10 Bold and simulcast on 10 Play
Matchday 8: Oman v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 1 February 2022
Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat, Oman
Kick-off: 8pm (local); 3am AEDT – Wednesday, 2 February 2022
Broadcast: Live and free in Australia on Network 10 and simulcast on 10 Play