Graham Arnold has stated his belief that the Socceroos will head into the 2022 FIFA World Cup with an “advantage” over his side’s opponents in Group D.
Having defeated the United Arab Emirates and Peru en route to securing their place in this year’s tournament, the Socceroos will be greeted by France, Tunisia and Denmark in November as the side looks to win their first match at a World Cup since 2010.
Speaking to media in Melbourne to commemorate the creation of an Australia Post postage stamp dedicated to 100 years of the Socceroos, Arnold acknowledged the silver lining behind his side having to play five of their World Cup qualifying games in Qatar, the nation that will host this year’s tournament.
“Everything happens for a reason! When COVID was around and we couldn’t get back into Australia to play our home games, I reached out to Timmy Cahill and the Qatari FA about playing our home games in Qatar in the air-conditioned stadiums,” said Arnold.
“It’s worked out that way that we’ve played five games at our second home in Qatar and we’ve experienced those air-conditioned stadiums”.
Given that players are being afforded just one week of preparation in Doha prior to the tournament’s first match, there will be limited time for Australia’s foes to acclimatise to the Gulf conditions where temperatures can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius in November.
In fact, teams who have qualified for the World Cup will not have enough time to schedule or play any friendly matches in Qatar prior to the World Cup starting. This means that, for some players, football’s biggest stage will be the first time that they have ever experienced playing in the Middle East.
While it is a small advantage, in high-stakes fixtures, it is the small margins that often prevail. As such, Arnold equally emphasised the benefit drawn by the side’s experience in playing in what will be uncharted territory for Australia’s group rivals, particularly France and Denmark who have never played a football fixture in Qatar, let alone one of their state of the art air-conditioned stadiums.
“The boys feel very comfortable playing there [in the air-conditioned stadiums]. It’s a completely different experience and I do believe it’s going to be an advantage for us,” Arnold added.
“France, Tunisia and Denmark won’t get an opportunity to play a friendly game [in Qatar] at all, so their first game will be in an air-conditioned stadium in a different environment. We’ve already experienced that so we will take that as an advantage for sure.
The Socceroos boss also confirmed that star midfielder Tom Rogić is in Sydney after his contract at Scottish giants Celtic expired at the end of June. Rogić is still in search of a club for next season and pulled out of Australia’s triumph against UAE and Peru due to “personal reasons”.
“I’ve reached out to Tommy, but we have no further confirmation of what his future is at this moment,” said Arnold.
“It’s his agent’s job to find that new club but once he does get that club, I’m sure we’ll speak.”