13/04/2024

Graham Arnold, current manager of the Socceroos. (PHOTO: Socceroos - X)

20 years ago, the Socceroos made world headlines after pulling off a stunning 3-1 victory against England at the old Upton Park in an international friendly.

Watching from the bench as an assistant coach during that famous night, Graham Arnold is now tasked with ensuring a positive performance is displayed against the same opposition, this time as manager.

Ahead of preparations for World Cup qualifying and the Asian Cup, the Socceroos will face the Three Lions at the iconic Wembley Stadium on Saturday morning.

Speaking to the media after touching down in London, Arnold provided an insight into the mood of the camp.

“It’s been fantastic. All of the staff are in and the players are just starting to come in, but you can tell just from the few players we’ve got that the excitement is there,” Arnold said.

“Overall, it’s going to be a fantastic and historic occasion but at the same time my expectation is improving our performance and making sure we get things right,”

The former Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners boss is using this opportunity to call on some new and old faces to experiment with the lineup.

23-year-old Hibernian right-back Lewis Miller received his first call-up to the national team, whilst 2015 Asian Cup hero Massimo Luongo returns to the squad after a five-year absence.

Arnold explained his thought process behind those two selections.

“We have some injuries with Nathaniel Atkinson and Matthew Leckie, so it gives players the opportunity who are performing well at club level,” he said.

“Lewis Miller is playing exceptionally well and Massimo Luongo thoroughly deserves a call-up who has been excellent at Ipswich. When I first took over, he was an integral part of the setup and the plans ahead. He had a couple of years of injuries but you can see he is in a very happy place mentally.”

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The squad has seven players aged 30 or above, and the average of the squad is 25.5 years which highlights an important emphasis on youth development and exposure on the world stage.

This is what Anrold is focusing on as he spoke about the rebuilding phase.

“We are going through a bit more of a rebuild situation at the moment, and when you look at the squad overall, 11 players have had less than 10 caps and five to six who have had 11 to 20 (caps) so it’s quite an inexperienced squad,” he said.

“I did feel with Mexico that when I took off Mitchell Duke or Jackson Irvine, we lost that little bit of experience.

“With the retirement of Aaron (Mooy) and obviously Tommy Rogic, we’re going through the process of introducing some younger players.

“It’s going to be great to bring in those three train-on players in Mohamed Toure, Patrick Yazbek and Alexander Robertson, so all that does is add more depth for the future.”


There is now a great mix of Aussies abroad plying their trade in Europe, proving that the talent is coming through the system.

For Arnold, this is a step in the right direction, he made time to pinpoint a couple of players and their great work with their respective clubs.

“Connor (Metcalfe) is getting stronger and quicker physically, you can see, playing in Germany every week, he’s improving not only technically but his physical aspect as well and he’s doing exceptionally well,” he said.

“But the boys are doing well. Awer Mabil scored two goals and an assist on the weekend, and it’s great to have him back in camp.”

No matter which sport, the rivalry between Australia and England remains as fierce as it was back in 2003 at Upton Park.

Despite the match being a friendly, Arnold wants his side to be tested against the very best to help them learn and grow.

“My preference straight after the World Cup when I re-signed was to play against top opposition because it’s the only way you learn from your mistakes,” he said.

“I think that was the biggest thing we learned from playing against France in the first game at the World Cup, a small mistake turns into a big mistake, and we get punished for it.

“This is our first camp back that we’ve got two games in a week and it’ll test the depth more of the squad, rather than one game and it’s a fantastic opportunity.

“Playing here in England, the rivalry that we have against England and in sport, not just football, it’s going to be fantastic.

“To have an occasion at Wembley where the Socceroos have never played before is going to be extra special, so I’m looking forward to first and foremost a great performance by the boys and winning the game.

“I did a bit of media the other day, English media, and they’re still talking about Upton Park in 2003 and how we beat them 3-1, that’s the type of rivalry that you need as well for that excitement”

The international window will continue after Friday as the Socceroos face New Zealand at the Gtech Community Stadium in Brentford.

Realising another tough challenge awaits, Arnold touched on meeting the Kiwis.

“We’ve had a great relationship with New Zealand over the years, playing in Oceania. We obviously moved into Asia and we haven’t played them that often,” he said.

“We played them twice last year and that was the first time in maybe 10 years, so it’d be great to have that derby game and we look forward to it.”

Australia takes on England on Saturday morning from 5:45am AEST before facing New Zealand on Wednesday morning from 5:45am AEST.

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