‘The mentality was fantastic’: Arnold’s verdict on Caltex Socceroos’ impressive win
Three goals, a clean sheet and three points. Graham Arnold couldn’t have asked for much more as the Caltex Socceroos beat Kuwait to get off to a flying start on the road to the FIFA World Cup 2022™ in Qatar.
In stifling conditions at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium, a dominant first-half display saw Australia surge to a 3-0 win.
Two goals from skipper Mat Leckie and a stunner from Aaron Mooy handed the Caltex Socceroos their biggest-ever FIFA World Cup qualifying win in the Middle East.
Speaking with Socceroos.com.au after the match, Arnold was understandably proud of his side’s performance.
“I thought the first half was excellent. We came out with all intention to be on the front foot,” the Caltex Socceroos boss said.
“We pressed them very well, we worked them really well, we didn’t let them really have any chances, and obviously second half it was a bit less.
“The mentality of the boys was fantastic, but in these conditions, you could see the fatigue kick in and I thought the three subs that came on made a big difference.”
Arnold added: “The energy that the young boys have brought into camp has been great. When Musti [Amini] came on he did a great job as well and Apo [Giannou] when he came on and [Awer] Mabil.
“We had a number of inexperienced players out there that are gaining great experience here in the Middle East and it is a great start to the campaign.”
With skipper Mark Milligan absent, Leckie was handed the armband and became the 61st man to captain the Caltex Socceroos.
And the Hertha Berlin attacker marked the occasion with a brace inside the first 30 minutes.
“His effort was fantastic,” Arnold said of Leckie.
“We have built a leadership group, obviously we’ve lost two wonderful leaders over the last couple of years in Mile Jedinak and Timmy Cahill and we’re looking for leaders to step up.
“We’ve built a leadership group of five or six players and it’s all about them taking control in the dressing room in the culture.
“[Leckie] is one of them, Aziz Behich I gave the opportunity to in South Korea is another one and Trent Sainsbury is another who has been captain under Bert van Marwijk.
“We’re in good shape, let’s enjoy this win and go home.”
The players will now head back to their clubs before assembling in Australia for the next international window next month.
The Caltex Socceroos host Nepal at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Thursday, October 10, before travelling to Chinese Taipei five days later.
With the qualifying matches coming thick and fast in coming months, Arnold said it’s an exciting period for the national team.
“Over the last year we’ve been building a lot of depth and the South Korea game [in June] was invaluable for that,” he said.
“You can see again the energy [the new faces] bring and then you have the players that are injured and ready to come back in next camp.
“I’m going to have a very difficult job picking a 23-man squad in the next couple of weeks because players are fit.
“I played tonight the guys that have played quite a lot of football – except for Rhyan Grant - over the last 6 weeks. For me it was important they had a lot of football under their belt and they were fit ready for this game.”
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