Talking Points: Graham Arnold's latest Socceroos World Cup Qualifying update

Subway Socceroos manager Graham Arnold spoke to the media on Thursday, as his latest squad was announced, prior to Australia’s FIFA World Cup 2026™ Second Round Asian Qualifiers against Bangladesh and Palestine.

Socceroos Tickets banner v Bangladesh or Maldives

Reflecting on recent friendlies against Argentina, Mexico, England, and New Zealand

I've really enjoyed the last six months, testing a lot of new players and giving opportunities in those friendly games that we had. The boys set their own standards in those games. And I expect those standards to continue, right from the start. I think when you play those type of teams, getting to play the number one in the world, in Argentina, and number five in the world, in England, having those type of games, it really builds a belief in the players.

The boys actually grew even more in the belief that they belong on the same field as those type of players and as I said at the start, the boys have set their standards. It doesn't matter who we play against, I expect those standards to be the minimum of what they produce moving forward. Now? It's a World Cup qualifier. I think that experimenting is over, now it's all about getting the tactics right, getting the players on the pitch, getting their performances right, and winning those games at all costs.

Needing Melbourne’s support to kick-start qualifying journey

It's the start of a new campaign, that campaign is crucially important for us to qualify for the World Cup, and it starts next Thursday, here against Bangladesh. We have got to go out with that siege mentality to win every game. I appeal to all the Melbourne fans, to get out and support the boys. 

It's been a really, really long time since we played here in Australia. You know, I was looking just the other day, in my reign of 44 matches, we've only played nine games here in Australia. So we've been away a long time and played a lot of football away from home. The boys just love coming back here so much and playing in front of their family, friends, and fans, and it'd be great to see a full house.

Update on squad injuries and unavailability

Mathew Leckie is obviously injured, Riley McGree is still injured. Nathaniel Atkinson has proven and shown what he can do for us, but he's injured at Hearts. But I've been saying it for four or five years, match minutes is the most important thing. Milos Degenek is not in the squad this time because he hasn't played for quite a while, Ajdin Hrustic is not getting any game time as well.

No one is ruled out though, again, the most important thing is they get back on the field and get match minutes and perform well. I don't get time to get the players fit, so they have to be ready. When they come into camp, we get two training sessions, and those two training sessions are short on detail. And it's about just taking that energy out onto the pitch and getting the job done.

Australia’s depth in the heart of defense

I will have some headaches over the next week, selecting a starting eleven. because of the four centre-backs that I've picked. (Alessandro Circati) is doing great at Palma, Cam Burgess is fantastic at Ipswich. Harry (Souttar) always does what he does, and Kye Rowles has been outstanding for us as well. So, I only can fit two of them in, it'll be a big decision when they get here. But overall, it's about getting our tactics right for these games.

Striker selection against potential low-block opponents

I think you'll notice, in the squad there are four number nines (Duke, Maclaren, Borrello, Yengi). I've gone for extra strikers for these two games, who have different styles as well. Yengi is doing exceptionally well at Portsmouth. He's obviously moved over in the offseason, but he gives us something completely different in size, and speed. And I think that's important for these two games.

Bruno (Fornaroli) has had a fantastic start to the season and if he had ended last season, the way he started this, then I probably would have watched even closer. Nestor (Irankunda) has done very well. He's obviously got those great relationships at Adelaide, he has some great qualities, it's just probably getting more consistency with those qualities but he's shown that he can do incredible things.

But I've pretty much gone the last six months just watching the overseas based players, because the A-league hasn't been playing. So it's hard to speak to those players, because you've taken away their opportunity. But at the same time, they've got the time now to show me before the Asian Cup.

Keeper shake-up as Joe Gauci is recalled to squad

Joe Gauci, I've been able to watch in three rounds now. Joe obviously had a very good season, last season, and is an up-and-coming goalkeeper, doing very well. We're looking at not only the next six months, but the next four years as well. As I said, young Gauci has been exceptional, but Maynard Brewer has also been playing every week at Charlton.

Keeping an eye on the upcoming Subway Olyroos friendlies

You can see the success of us qualifying for the Olympics in 2020. From Tokyo, there's probably about thirteen players that have been in (Socceroos) squads and now it's great that this window, Tony Vidmar is also going to Saudi Arabia with the Olympic team.

The boys will get the chance with Tony, and then they will develop over the next six months. An under-23 tournament for the Olympics is a way to help develop the kids, that next generation coming through. The Olympics for me, is the second biggest stage that footballers can get to, after the World Cup, and that age between twenty and twenty-three is crucial for players careers.

You’ve got to keep your eyes open and be aware because I do believe that international football is getting younger, and you've got kids coming through and you want to keep that pathway going, you don't want to block it. I'll be watching them.

Arnold closing in on Socceroos record for most games managed

Yeah, look, it'll be a fantastic honour, but three points is all that I care about. To take over first from Frankie (Frank Farina), who is a great mate of mine was a real honour. I'd rather in a lot of ways, not have had the interim period, but the interim period that I did have was probably the best lesson I learnt in coaching.

You realise that after you've achieved something special, you've got to keep on achieving and you don't want to drop those standards and those goals. So as I said, the most important thing for me, is that the boys get in here fit on Sunday, Monday, and we get to training sessions and obviously we get a great culture within the Socceroos set up so the boys are ready to perform and get the job done for the nation.

The departure of assistant Ufuk Talay, to A-League side Sydney FC

Ufuk was fantastic with us, but I always knew that his main goal was to get back to managing and coaching. I accept that. Brad Maloney, the Joeys' coach will come in and take that role for this camp. But I'll obviously be looking, probably for someone to help further down the track as well.

Our last visit to AAMI Park.



Subway Socceroos v Bangladesh
Thursday, 16 November 2023
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Tickets: via Ticketek
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+

Palestine v Subway Socceroos
Tuesday, 21 November 2023
Jaber Al-Ahmed International Stadium, Kuwait
Kick-off: TBC
Broadcast: Network 10 and Paramount+