“I truly believe that the Socceroos are the team that unites the country”, said Graham Arnold, vindicated. “If the cricket team get to the final of the World Cup you don’t get scenes like tonight. You don’t see the squares like they are tonight, and not with the rugby union or rugby league either. I’m just so proud and happy. This is what World Cups are for.”
The Australia coach was talking after his team had beaten the odds and perhaps even their own expectations to qualify for the round of 16 at Qatar 2022. A deserved victory over the team placed 10th in the Fifa world rankings, Arnold believes this feat has sealed the creation of a second “golden generation” for Australia after the team of 2006, but that now the focus must be on achieving more.
“It’s first time ever an Australian team has won two games of the World Cup in a row,” Arnold said. “Maybe we’re talking about a new golden generation now because we’ve been listening and hearing about the golden generation of 2006 who got four points – and now we’ve got six.
“I’m just so proud of the players, the work ethic, the commitment, the fight, the way they played. Denmark are top 10 in the world for a reason, they have high quality players who play in top leagues and defensively I thought we were outstanding tonight.”
After victory over Tunisia, Arnold had tried to bring his players down to earth by telling them they had achieved nothing yet. He said he had shared the same message after beating Denmark too. “I truly believe that when you look at underdogs – teams like Japan and Saudi Arabia – they achieve something and they’re celebrating, they’re very emotional and they’re on social media till 4 or 5 in the morning reading pats on the back”, he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that most important thing is recovery, it’s sleep. Do everything to get ready for the next game.”
While crowds were up all night at home celebrating, Arnold advised his players to “make yourself happy before you go to sleep” before the players go again on Saturday night, potentially against Lionel Messi’s Argentina. Arnold said the Socceroos’ progress has struck a blow for Asian football which, he says, is catching up the rest of the world “quickly”.
“We were probably the last team everyone in Asia thought would qualify but it shows that when you walk on the pitch and have the right mentality where it’s a war and you go out there and fight [what you can achieve]. It’s great for Asia. I do believe Asia is getting stronger and stronger, particularly in the Middle East but also in South Korea and Japan. The travelling can make it difficult but i do think Asia is catching up quickly.”