Socceroos coach Graham Arnold insists spirits remain high in Australia’s ‘home away from home’ in Doha, despite a positive COVID-19 case for assistant Rene Meulensteen ruling him out of the international break.
Australia will kick off the next phase of its qualification on Friday morning (4:00am AEST) before facing Vietnam in Hanoi next Tuesday (10:00pm AEST), however Arnold will have to set up his side two staff members down.
Fellow assistant and ex-Socceroo Tony Vidmar is also absent due to being hit with four weeks of quarantine when arriving back into South Australia from the Toyko Olympics, forcing a heavy workload onto Arnold.
“Rene is a fantastic assistant, the fact he can’t be here because he tested positive last week is a blow,” the Australian coach said.
“Tony Vidmar having to go through double quarantine after the Olympics is also a blow.
“But they’re still both working for me remotely and are in on the Zoom calls, we’re talking and communicating and coming up with a gameplan.
“The only real difference is I’m doing everything on the ground here.”
Arnold did not return back to Australia after the Olyroos’ campaign in Tokyo, but is hopeful the Socceroos will return to Australia in the next international break.
Arnold will also not have A-League players at his disposal bar Rhyan Grant, with the quarantine system imposed in Australia proving an impediment for player such as Matthew Leckie and Jamie Maclaren to get called up.
“I want nothing more than to play in Australia and I really expect that we’ll be able to do that in October,” Arnold said.
“The mentality I have built with this group of players is that we go out every game no matter where we play expecting to win.”
Arnold also revealed that Football Australia approached the Asian Football Confederation to play the match in Europe rather than Qatar, but was rebuffed in its attempt.
“You can’t do it because it is outside the federation,” he said.
“For World Cup Qualifiers you have to play within Asia, the most important thing for me is we didn’t play in east Asia.”
The Socceroos held their final training session overnight and Arnold says he is likely to return to a 4-2-3-1 formation after experimenting in Kuwait, also not ruling out using Ajdin Hrustic or Jackson Irvine further up the field due to Australia’s abundance of quality in the centre of midfield.
Australia take on China tomorrow morning at 4am AEST