Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has gone on the offensive over criticism which followed the announcement of his FIFA World Cup squad.
Arnold announced the 26 players that will represent Australia in Qatar over the next two months, with the omissions of Mitch Langerak, Tom Rogic and Trent Sainsbury raising eyebrows.
The 59-year-old, who has been at the helm since 2018, wasted little time before hitting back at the criticism surrounding his selections.
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“That’s the way Australian media are these days, it’s all about the negativity,” Arnold told SEN’s Sportsday.
“But for me, it’s about the positivity of the young kids, the next generation.
“Of course, we’re coming up against some great opponents but the only way you can upset those opponents is by having players that can run all day, fight all day, the old Aussie DNA.
“That is when you go out on that pitch you’ve got to win the one-vs-one battles, it’s 11 vs 11 but at the same time you’ve got to be able to compete physically with them to be able to get the result.”
With Arnold’s squad now officially set, here are some of the big winners and losers.
What a few months it’s been for the 18-year-old, who is now set to fly to Qatar for the World Cup before linking up with Newcastle in the Premier League.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Kuol, who currently plies his trade with the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League.
Kuol made his A-League debut in April, and has already scored four times in 12 appearances.
The talented forward will now get a wonderful opportunity to absorb knowledge from his more experienced teammates in Qatar, having only made one official appearance for the Socceroos so far in his career.
“He can change a game with a flick of a switch. There’s not many Australian players who can do that,” Arnold said of Kuol on SEN’s Sportsday.
The teen sensation is likely to be a vital spark plug off the bench for Arnold in Qatar.
When Australia’s last World Cup campaign concluded, Jason Cummings was plying his trade on loan at League One side Peterborough United.
Cummings had made two appearances for Scotland by 2018, but he wouldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that he’d be playing at the next World Cup, let alone for Australia.
Much like his club teammate Kuol, it’s been quite a 12 months for the 27-year-old Cummings.
He signed an 18-month contract with the Mariners in January 2022 and has not looked back since, banging in 12 goals in 25 appearances.
He was handed a Socceroos debut by Arnold in September and scored against New Zealand in a 2-0 win, and is now on the plane to Qatar. What a story.
It’s hard to know exactly what must be going through Mitch Langerak’s mind after being coaxed out of an international retirement by Arnold only to then be snubbed for the World Cup.
Langerak has been Australia’s most prolific shot-stopper at club level in recent years, with his 48 clean sheets since 2021 for Japanese side Nagoya Grampus more than what the three keepers Arnold selected over him in Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic and Andrew Redmayne have combined for in the same time period.
The 34-year-old was selected in the 2014 World Cup squad, but has made just eight appearances for his country and is highly unlikely to add another after this snub.
Arnold responded to the criticism by saying that the decision to snub Langerak was that of goalkeeping coach John Crawley in a bizarre defense of the selection.
“At the end of the day, John Crawley believes and we believe that we’ve picked the three best keepers for this World Cup and that’s what we’re sticking to,” said the Socceroos coach.
Arnold’s omission of center back Trent Sainsbury also raised several eyebrows, with the 30-year-old a veteran of 58 caps and having previous World Cup experience.
Sainsbury also has experience in Qatar, currently plying his trade at Al-Wakrah, but he has struggled for game time.
Arnold said the lack of recent minutes proved decisive in the case against Sainsbury.
“It was a very, very difficult decision. I spoke to Trent about where he’s at at this moment in time. He hasn’t played for a number of weeks,” he said.
“Overall I’ve gone for players like Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles who have done exceptionally well and continue to do exceptionally well. Trent was very understanding of the situation but it’s a decision that was very hard to make.”
Having been snubbed from this year’s World Cup, Sainsbury’s is unlikely to play in another World Cup again.
You also have to feel for Tom Rogic who has been one of the crown jewels of the Socceroos since the retirements players from the golden generation.
Rogic has represented his country over 50 times since making his debut in 2012, but was overlooked with Arnold choosing players who were more “fit and ready” than the 29-year-old.
After a tremendously successful stint with Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, Rogic has struggled for game time at West Bromwich Albion since signing with the English club on a free transfer.
“At the end of the day I only can pick two players for every position. We’ve obviously gone for Ajdin Hrustic and Riley McGree and again we need some flexibility and players that are extremely fit and ready,” Arnold said.
“Tommy’s been absolutely brilliant for Australian football and he will continue to be so but I have to make those decisions.”
Australia’s 2022 World Cup campaign gets underway on November 23 when it takes on reigning champions France at 6am AEDT.
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