LG Socceroos Hungry For Victory – Paraguay Series

LG Socceroos assistant coach Graham Arnold today described the national team as “hungry for victory” in the run-up to its three-match series against Paraguay. His comments came following the first open training session for the squad, held at St Paul’s College in the heart of Sydney.

LG Socceroos assistant coach Graham Arnold today described the national team as “hungry for victory” in the run-up to its three-match series against Paraguay. His comments came following the first open training session for the squad, held at St Paul-s College in the heart of Sydney.

“The atmosphere amongst the team is excellent,” he said.

The series against Paraguay, the first match of which is due to be played at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday, forms the starting point of Australia-s 2002 World Cup campaign. If the Socceroos win the Oceania qualifying series, they will go on to play the fifth-placed team in the South American group for a berth in the 2002 competition, to be held in Japan and Korea.

On their opponents for Friday-s match, Arnold said: “Paraguay will be a typical South American opposition - plenty of skill, plenty of entertainment, a totally different opposition to what the Australian public are used to. With the likes of a goalkeeper who comes up to take free kicks from around the box it should be great for the fans. It-s essential that we get to play as many South American teams as possible before our World Cup qualifiers. Before we did the 1994 campaign, Argentina was the only team from South America we had played. We-ve now been to Chile and the run up for these matches has been perfect for us.”

On Saturday the Paraguay team warmed up for their Australian tour with a 3-1 win over Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier. Two goals were scored by stand-in striker Hugo Brizuela and an early goal from Delio Toledo.

“We-ve definitely got better players,” Arnold said.

“These guys practicing here are more experienced than the Paraguayans. Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell have learnt so much over the past four years, Craig Foster is hugely experienced, Danny Tiatto-s soon to be playing in the Premiership with Manchester City…the list goes on. Paraguay are running second in their group now, and if we look ahead, they could be the team that we play off against to get into the World Cup next year, so it-s great preparation for us.”

On the level of commitment shown by the Socceroo squad he said: “In the last run up to the Confederation Cup, virtually no players came back from overseas, but this time we-ve got 12 or 14. The commitment of the boys to the Green and Gold jersey is staggering. When the Chile trip was on we also had a good number of overseas based players, and when Brazil came to Australia last year everybody came back. I played for the national team for 14 years, and I don-t have one thing on my resume, and I certainly never played in a World Cup. The guys out there are desperate for it. You can-t tell me that players like Kewell, Viduka and Bosnich don-t want to go to the World Cup. And we will get there with the attitude of these blokes.”

“When we didn-t get in last time, it was the bitterest night ever. Craig (Foster) played, I came on in the last 15 minutes and ended up retiring after the match. It was a bad memory for all of us. This time I can go back as an assistant coach, it-ll be Craig-s last chance to play in a World Cup and maybe finish his career in Korea or Japan. There-s a huge number of players who played in that game who are still playing now, which makes the hunger twice as strong. They all felt that pain. To watch a World Cup in France was murder, knowing that we should have been there.”

Not present at the first training session were Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnic, who was due in after having had a hamstring problem assessed, and Celtic striker Mark Viduka who is having physiotherapy treatment on an injured ankle. Others to be suffering from recent injuries are defenders Luke Casserley, and Steve Horvat.

“What we have to do is qualify for the World Cup as a country, not just as 20 people. We have to do it all together, with everyone behind us and that-s exactly what-s going on here,” he said.

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