“We are where we were four years ago.” Graham Arnold said today from Jeddah. What he means is that Australia’s Qatar 2022 fate is now in the hands of the dreaded playoffs, just as it was in the bid to qualify for Russia 2018. He means Asia and then South America.
Why? Well, we have missed out on automatic qualification. Last week’s 2-0 home loss to Japan ensured that. It also ensured more questions about Arnold’s future as head coach and more pre- post mortems of the Socceroos’ failure to qualify altogether, which has not even yet happened (though we do love a drama).
Today’s tie is against Saudi Arabia. It is a dead rubber. Australia will finish third in their group, and Japan and Saudi first and second, and that will not change regardless of the result. But Arnold offered another wise nugget today: he does not believe in dead rubbers.
“Especially when you put on a national team shirt,” he said. “I said to the boys, ‘I’ve used 45 players over the last 17 games and we will add to that tonight’. I would rather look at the positives. The positives are that we are creating depth. Today it’s a clean sheet of paper.”
This blog, though, will not be a clean sheet of paper. So let’s fill it!