New era for Caltex Socceroos gives Arnie 'goosebumps'

Imagining the impact this group of Caltex Socceroos could make on world football gives Graham Arnold ‘goosebumps’, the new head coach said after revealing his first squad.

Arnold and his coaching team fly to Antalya in Turkey on Saturday to join up with the 31 players who have been selected to kick-start a new era for Australian football in a nine-day training camp.

With the 2019 AFC Asian Cup just over four months away, Arnold confirmed the Caltex Socceroos will open his tenure with an away game in October, followed by home games against Korea Republic in Brisbane on Saturday 17 November and a match against Lebanon at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday 20 November.

In a selection which allows Arnold to cast an eye on a number of exciting youngsters in camp, the head coach has called on five uncapped prospects, and 13 players with fewer than 10 caps, to complement his more experienced heads.

THROWBACK: When the Caltex Socceroos played Lebanon in 2012
LOCKED IN: Caltex Socceroos will play Lebanon in Sydney on 20 November

“When I look across the squad overall, I get goosebumps,” he said. “The players are really at the right age. The experienced one with 50 caps under their belts are only 26 years of age.

“They really are in the perfect stage of their career for a lot of the group. I’ve worked with a lot of them before, I’ve got to get to know the new ones.”

An exciting new style

After closely watching the Caltex Socceroos' displays at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, Arnold believes his biggest challenge is to build on the foundations laid by previous boss Bert van Marwijk.

“I have so much belief in this group,” he added. “Watching them at the World Cup, Bert [van Marwijk] set out a great stall. It’s about us putting layers on top of that. I’ve always been a coach that’s already respected defence and the defensive block.

“The layers I’ll be putting on top is the build-up, and the attacking combinations and the penetration. I’ve got those players and I can do it, I will do it.”

That confidence stems from a belief that Arnold can maximise the attacking threat of the Caltex Socceroos’ most dangerous players and create more chances in front of goal.

“[My team] will be more flexible,” he said. “A system is a system but it’s about how flexible you play, about giving players the opportunity to express themselves.

“I think we’ve got a hell of a lot of pace in the team, it’s about using that pace in the right areas. Also, we’ve got players who can change a game with quality. It’s about giving them that belief to do that.”

WHO ARE THEY?: The bolters in Arnold's first Caltex Socceroos training camp
SQUAD BREAK DOWN: New faces and a striker battle a feature of Arnie’s first squad

A proud day for the new coach

The return to Sydney to play Lebanon will be almost a year to the day since the euphoric scenes at ANZ Stadium when the Caltex Socceroos qualified for Russia 2018 with a 3-1 win against Honduras.

For a man who grew up in the Harbour City, it will be an occasion like no other.  

“For a Sydney-born boy like myself, my first opportunity to coach the Socceroos in Sydney, against Lebanon, will be a very proud moment for myself,” he said.

“It’ll be a great test for us and to bring the boys back to Sydney for the first time in a long time, to a stadium where there’s a lot of history for the Socceroos in qualifying for the World Cup. I know it’s a stadium that the player’s love coming to and playing at.”