Win will boost players development enormously: Arnold

A win on Saturday night against Iraq and eventual qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, will be a huge boost to the development of this group of players, according coach Graham Arnold.

A win on Saturday night against Iraq and eventual qualification for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, will be a huge boost to the development of this group of players, according coach Graham Arnold.

And Arnold believes most of all to benefit will be the Socceroos, especially with the World Cup qualifiers starting early next year and the need to produce new players for the senior national team.

The Qantas Under 23-s must win on Saturday night at Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium, to climb into pole position at the top of the group, with only the winner progressing to year-s finals. The two teams are locked together on 8 points each, with Iraq ahead on goal difference. A win for Australia will mean a draw will be good enough in the final match against DPR Korea the following Wednesday night.

“When you look at what-s ahead with the World Cup qualifiers, if we win on Saturday night it gives the opportunity for the next generation to have another year of international football,” Arnold said after the teams first training session on Tuesday. “To play in a major tournament like the Olympics, it-s massively important,” he said in reference to there development as footballers.

While Arnold was hesitant to say how many of this group could play a significant role in the 2010 World Cup qualification series, he has no doubt what percentage of the group must become regular members of the Socceroos.

“Fifty percent of them will have to go on and become Socceroos,” Arnold said emphatically. “We had an older generation at the World Cup; we-ve had a few retirements and players moving on and they have to be replaced from somewhere. This is a good group of players that fortunately have been playing in the A-league over the last six-ten months where they have got quite a bit of game time.

“When I first got this squad together, they weren-t playing at all. Thankfully they are playing and they-re starting to develop as players, but club football is totally different to international football and it-s something we need to continue with.”

Hence why Arnold has assembled his biggest squad of the qualifying series for these two matches, with 24 players named. That was reduced to 23 overnight with the news that Neil Kilkenny will not be traveling to Australia, after he was concussed in Oldham Athletic-s league match on Saturday. Stuart Musialik is also ruled out, after failing to recover following an appendix operation several weeks ago. Perth Glory-s Nikita Rukavytsya was a late call up.

“I won-t be cutting any players now. I wanted to get 24 players in, because I like to do lots of match simulation; work 11 v 11 to make sure we are tactically ready for whatever we come up against.

“We also have six players on yellow cards, so if we get any yellow cards on Saturday night to those players, then they won-t be able to go across to North Korea. That-s why we have a bigger squad in, so the players that are in now, know the concept of what we want to do and we won-t have to make too many changes.”

Already without first choice players Matt Spiranovic and Bruce Djite, the loss of Musialik and Kilkenny, two central midfielders is blow, but Arnold is confident he has the cover.

“Matt Spiranovic, Stuart Musialik and Bruce Djite, that-s three pretty much of our starting line-up that are out of the side, but we-ve got some depth in this squad, so we should be fine.”

Arnold doesn-t believe Iraq will change things around too much for this game, believing they will stick with what has worked for them well so far in the qualifying series.

“They know they only need to get a draw on Saturday night, because their goal difference is better, but at the same time we want to keep the destiny in our own hands and that is a win.

“They could come and sit back, but if they do that, there are not many teams in the world that can sit back for 90 minutes and absorb pressure, especially away from home, so that could play into our hands.

“I can-t see them changing their system and structure too much, because they have been successful with it. They haven-t conceded a goal in the tournament so far with a back four and nether have we and I think there will be minimal chances in the game and it will get down to whoever takes them the best.”

Asked whether he was confident his players would get the job done on Saturday night, Arnold was pretty much straight forward with his answer and at the same time called on football fans to come along and get behind the team.

“Of course,” he said. “We drew 0-0 with them away in 42 degrees conditions in Qatar and we are in our own country and we need a full house behind us.

“No doubt Iraq will bring 5-6,000 supporters with them up from Sydney and we need the rest of the stadium to be full of Australians to get behind the next generation of Socceroos.

“They can help be the 12th man, because every time we go to the Asian countries they always get great support and we-ve always got our backs to the wall, so hopefully we-ll now get the Australian support behind this group of players on Saturday night.”

Australia v Iraq

Saturday November 17 Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium, Gosford Kick-off - 7.00pm AEDT

Tickets can be pre-purchased from Ticketek or from 5.00pm on match-day at the venue. Gates open at 6.00pm. will have LIVE MATCH UPDATE starting from 6.45pm.

There is also delayed coverage of the match to be shown on SBS from 10.15pm.