Players are full focused on qualifying: Arnold

Qantas Under 23’s coach Graham Arnold is very confident his players are fully focused on getting the job done against DPR Korea tomorrow afternoon, despite the challenge’s the team will face in Pyongyang tomorrow.

Qantas Under 23-s coach Graham Arnold is very confident his players are fully focused on getting the job done against DPR Korea tomorrow afternoon, despite the challenge-s the team will face in Pyongyang tomorrow.

The challenge-s, apart from the DPR team that won its first game of this qualifying round on Saturday in Beirut, will be the cold weather and the artificial surface, which very few of the boys have played on in match conditions before. The weather forecast however may be good news for Arnold, with light snow expected to fall overnight, but a fine day and a maximum of 5- degrees forecast for Wednesday.

“After our performance on Saturday night, it-s given the players a lot of confidence,” Arnold said as he was due to depart for Pyongyang, after several days in Beijing. “But at the same time, it-s another big challenge for these players, who have played in six different countries in Asia and are now going into North Korea to play in freezing cold conditions, on artificial grass.

“These are two hurdles for us, but I am very confident that we will be okay.”

With the overseas players accustomed to the colder weather, it-s the artificial grass pitch that will have most players concerned.

“The ball will be a bit quicker over the surface,” when asked what the differences are between this and a normal grass pitch. “The bounce will be different; it-s much higher, so we-ll go to training this afternoon and work a little on that.

“We have tried to prepare ahead, by doing three sessions down at Sutherland (in Sydney two weeks ago) to try and get used to the astro turf. I think the boys will be prepared for whatever is put in front of them.”

Having secured the all-important victory over Iraq on Saturday, the match most thought would decide the group, Arnold have been very careful to make sure that the players haven-t fallen into the trap of already thinking they will be playing in Beijing next year.

“You can-t be complacent in a situation like this; a lot is at stake,” he said bluntly. “Thankfully we-ve talked about it that many times before and complacency shouldn-t be an issue.

“I saw them in training yesterday and they are ready again. They-re fresh; mentally they know what-s at stake; this is a once in a lifetime chance to go to the Olympics, so they know what is there for them, so complacency won-t set in.

“They are not those type of people to let complacency set in.”

As for the match itself, Arnold is not preparing to change too much structurally and is set to go into the match with the same starting eleven. Arnold said the players had recovered well from its long flight to Beijing and has no injury concerns.

“We had a light session yesterday to get the legs moving on artificial grass here. The boys are all fresh and they look well and there are no injuries, so that-s a bonus.

“At this stage yes (keeping the same starting eleven); we don-t have time to change too much structurally and we don-t have to at this stage. We-ll go out and play our normal game.

“To go out and defend for 90 minutes, you can get yourself in trouble.”

Set pieces are again going to feature heavily in Arnold-s planning, having worked a treat against Iraq, where both goals came from set pieces.

“We talked about set pieces last week and we ended scoring from two set pieces on the weekend. We-ve got a height advantage over them; I-ve worked hard on set pieces with them from day one.

“It was proven with Italy winning the World Cup; they scored ten goals, eight of which were from set pieces, so it-s a weapon. They haven-t seen Milligan-s long throw, so that may come into effect tomorrow.”

Arnold was happy to see that DPR Korea were catching the same flight to Pyongyang as them, meaning they will have endured more traveling in less time, but still expects the North Koreans to be very competitive come kick-off.

“From what I saw yesterday (of their game on Saturday against Lebanon) it-s pretty much the same as we have being seeing, but if they do change their system, we-ll be prepared.

“I doubt that (when asked if they would lack motivation); they-re a very proud country. They are very disciplined as you could imagine by their culture. I am more than happy they got a result against Lebanon, because they-ve had a win now, but no doubt they will want to finish off in fine style as well.”

Thanks to Fox Sports ongoing commitment to the ‘World Game-, Australian sports fans can now see the match LIVE, with coverage commencing at 5.00pm on Fox Sports 2.

There will also be a LIVE MATCH UPDATE on from 5.00pm.