Socceroo boss Graham Arnold has invoked the spirit of the Golden Generation and the penalty heroics that got Australia past Uruguay, the last time the national team faced South American opponents in a crucial play-off to reach the World Cup finals.
Mark Schwarzer: one of the shootout heroes in ’05.Credit:Getty Images
If the Socceroos are taken to a shootout against another South American opponent, this time Peru, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, then his squad will be as prepared as possible.
Arnold said his players have what it takes to win this game in 90 minutes, relying on their fighting spirit and mentality as well as their capacity to shut down their more fancied opponents. But they are ready for 120 minutes – and more if necessary.
After the Asian play-off win over the UAE late week, Arnold spoke of the return of the “Aussie DNA” to the team – a hard-working and fighting mentality – and he said it would play a huge role again.
“Especially with one-off games. We have been able to drive that Aussie DNA that a one-off game is a final, a grand final, that there is no second chance, and you get out there and leave everything on the park,” Arnold said yesterday.
“Peru are obviously a good side, but our strength is hard work but also getting in the opposition faces and don’t let them play. Take their strengths away from them, making sure we play to our strengths. The boys are in good shape mentally physically, and we are ready to go out there and give it our best for our nation.
“Winning both games against Jordan and the UAE has rebuilt that belief that we had. I truly believe that we improved from the Jordan game to the UAE and that was better, and we will do that again. We will need to.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold : big decisions to make on line up for clash with PeruCredit:Getty
“We practiced penalty shootouts even before the Jordan game. The UAE game we did it, and we have continually practised it.
“We make sure that all the boys, we do a little drill in the middle of the centre circle, all the boys have to walk up like they would, it’s like a rehearsal, like they would in a game, then take a penalty. We are ready for everything that is thrown at us.”
Arnold has some big decisions to make with his team selection, although he was keeping tight-lipped about his starting 11 before seeing his charges in a final training session overnight.
He was guarded about the playing prospects of Trent Sainsbury, his regular first-choice centre half, as he only trained alone and has not played a full game since turning out for his Belgian club Kortrijk in mid-April.
Striker Adam Taggart is also under an injury cloud while Melbourne Victory left back Jason Davidson has a hamstring injury and is a definite absentee.
Jackson Irvine (right) celebrates with Kye Irving after the Socceroos’ win over the UAE.Credit:Getty Images
Arnold must also decide on whether to leave out rookie right back Nathaniel Atkinson, who was badly exposed against the UAE by the pace of winger Harib Abdalla Suhail, in favour of Fran Karacic and whether natural predator Jamie Maclaren will be a better choice at centre forward than Mat Leckie.
“We have worked on it with Nathaniel and Fran. Nathaniel got isolated a couple of times against a player who had very good speed. At times, he let the player turn and face him and use his speed. He has to not let the player turn. We have worked on that and spoken about that. Those two players are in calculations.
“I think Lecks did very well there, he chased and harassed the centre backs and did a fantastic job. We have got a couple of options, plus Mitchell Duke and Nick D’Agostino [for the forward positions].“
■ The Olyroos have qualified for the last four of the Under-23 Asian Cup after seeing off the threat of Turkmenistan in the quarter-final of the tournament being played in Uzbekistan. Australia won 1-0 thanks to a 74th-minute own goal from Turkmenistan defender Oraz Orazov was the difference between the two teams. They will face either Saudi Arabia or Vietnam in Wednesday night’s semi-final in Tashkent.
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