Selection of squad was very difficult says Arnold

Australian Olympic football team coach Graham Arnold has revealed the selection of the squad that will participate at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was the most difficult thing he has ever had to do as a coach.

Exclusive: Australian Olympic football team coach Graham Arnold has revealed the selection of the squad that will participate at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was the most difficult thing he has ever had to do as a coach.

“It was very difficult,” Arnold said. “Working with players for two years and not being able to include overage players in the qualifiers and bringing them in at the death, makes it very hard.

“I have used over 30 players in the qualifiers and to get to the final selection, I have to have to disappoint one in two kids, so it-s very difficult.”

After over two years of matches, which culminated in two friendlies against Chile in Darwin last weekend, Arnold sat down with his coaching staff to make the final selection of 15 under 23 players and three overage players that will make up the 18-man squad.

Form and importantly the ability to adapt to the conditions they will experience in China in August, were just two key criteria-s that Arnold looked at in his final selection.

“Form over two years; you just don-t look at the squad being picked over one game or the last camp against Chile, you pick it on form over two years and these boys have performed consistently well as a group; they-ve improved enormously,” he said.

“We-ve raised their fitness levels enormously to be somewhere near where it needs to be at international level. There is still a bit to go, which will try to fix in the next five weeks.

“Part of the selection process was not only about there football ability but also how they handle the conditions. If a player is not built or in no way can handle those conditions, then he can-t perform to the best of his ability and therefore for him (the player) it-s hard, but you need players that can handle those conditions.

“We heat tested them (the squad) in every way, with core temperature, sweat testing; everything to make sure the player can handle the heat and conditions and once we get up there and get acclimatize, we-ll be fine.”

The majority of the squad will return into camp on Wednesday (July 9) to play one last game in Australia against Beijing-bound New Zealand at North Sydney Oval on July 12 (2pm kick-off), before they head off to a three-week training camp in Asia from the 17th July.

He hopes that time together will make the group even stronger from a team unity point of view, as that will be important if they are to achieve success at the Olympics.

“We-ve been in camp a lot over the last 6-8 weeks and mentally it can get a bit hard at times on the players; so we-ll let them go home freshen up; see their families; drive their cars and live a normal life.

“But they are back in on Wednesday for five days, go home for another three days and then on the 17th we are leaving and spending three and half weeks in Asia before Beijing.

“One of the things I pride the group on is the camaraderie, as well as the discipline and how well they do get on. There is no ego-s in the team and there will be no ego-s in the team; everyone pitches in carrying the kit; carrying the balls and it-s very important that we maintain that and keep moving forward.

“That was also a big decision for me in choosing the three overage players; is they would fit dynamically into the chemistry of the team.”

Arnold-s selection of the three overage players saw Newcastle Jets skipper Jade North, Melbourne Victory-s Archie Thompson and Sheffield United-s David Carney named, with North getting another chance after participating at the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece.

The former Qantas Socceroo player and coach plans to use Carney in a more advanced role at the Olympics and hopes his and Archie-s inclusion will produce the goals which at times were lacking during the qualifying series.

“Two of them are current starting members of the (Qantas) Socceroos in Jade and David and Archie has shown before what he can do. I will be playing David higher up the field; in the qualifiers if we did have a weakness it was in the front half of the field, finishing off chances. We had no trouble creating them; we had trouble scoring and to add David and Archie into the attacking half of the field is beneficial for us,” he concluded.