No easy decision for Arnold

Qantas Under 23’s coach Graham Arnold has said naming the squad for the Beijing Olympics is probably the toughest thing he has ever has to do so far in his coaching career.

Qantas Under 23-s coach Graham Arnold has said naming the squad for the Beijing Olympics is probably the toughest thing he has ever has to do so far in his coaching career.

Arnold will name a squad of 18 players for the Olympics, which includes potentially 3 overage players, and picking 15 players from the 27 in camp in Darwin at present, will be tough he admitted.

The Qantas Under 23-s players will get their last chance to impress Arnold, when they play the Chilean Under 23 team in two matches on Friday and Sunday, with every player set to play over the course of the two games.

“Yeah, it-s probably the hardest thing I would have had to do in coaching,” he said from Darwin. “These kids have really developed over the last couple of years in Asia; done a terrific job to be the first (men-s) team to qualify to a major competition through Asia.

“We-ve got 30 players that are good enough to go to the Olympics, so one in every two players can go. It is going to be difficult, but the message will be to the boys it won-t be the end of the world for their football careers (if they don-t make it) and they have to look forward and be positive. We need this group to step up to Socceroo level because they are the next bright light of Australian football.”

The last time the team was in camp, Arnold was missing a host of players and came away from the tournament in Malaysia, where they finished runners-up to Beijing-bound Nigeria, with only four players he could say would be definites.

He revised that after watching the Olyroo players that played against China for the Socceroos on Sunday. While not naming anybody, when asked on Matt Spiranovic-s performance against China, he was not surprised by his excellent performance.

“Probably five now after last Sunday night watching the young boys with the Socceroos,” he said. “There are still a lot of question marks and a lot will depend on the overage players; if I can get the ones I want in the front half of the field then it changes the process of selection.

“Very good,” he said of Spiranovic-s performance. “I-ve seen him play at Nuremburg a couple of times; I-ve had him in the Olympic team only once against Iraq and he was outstanding and I thought the other night just confirmed what a top talent he is.”

The two games against Chile, who only missed out on participating at the Olympics on goal difference behind Brazil, will be the perfect games, especially with tournament favourites Argentina in Australia-s group.

“I didn-t bring Chile here because they are mugs, because you don-t learn anything against an average team,” he quipped. “They-re a top team; a very good football team and they just missed out on qualification in going to the Olympics, so they are going to come out here to play well and that-s what we want; to be pushed to the limit.

“They shouldn-t need any extra motivation to perform over the next two days. I-ll be mixing the teams and I won-t be putting my strongest line-up out in any of the games; it will be a total mixture of the two teams to give everyone the opportunity to impress.

“The boys that played in the Socceroos last Sunday only came in today, so those boys won-t play tomorrow night, they will play on Sunday. I was a little bit disappointed for them; I think they know they can do much better than what they did individually as players. That-s not the best these kids can do and they have shown me much better in the past. They-ve got bright futures all of them.

And for what he thinks Australia can achieve at the Olympics?

“Our goal is to go there and win an Olympic medal; that-s not being arrogant or anything, it-s just a goal of the squad, team and organisation to go there; try our best and to try and get a medal.

“We-ll go there and give it our best shot; we-re up against some very good teams, but when you get to a tournament when you only have 16 teams, it-s going to be difficult. We-ll be prepared for it; we-ll be acclimatized; players will be fit and we-ll be tactically ready to go.”