Australian coach Arnold on edge after loss to Japan

Soccer Football – World Cup – Asia Qualifiers – Group B – Australia v China – Khalifa Stadium, Doha, Qatar – September 2, 2021 Australia coach Graham Arnold REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari/File Photo

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MELBOURNE, March 26 (Reuters) – Australia manager Graham Arnold’s future is in doubt following the World Cup qualifier loss to Japan, with local media reporting he could be sacked as early as next week.

Arnold came into the home game under fire after breaching Australia’s mandatory isolation period after testing positive for COVID-19, while needing a win to keep the Socceroos’ hopes alive. automatically qualify for the final in Qatar.

Instead, the dismal 2-0 loss to the Blue Samurai condemned them to a perilous path to the playoffs, while underscoring Australian rules football’s stagnation against top Asian nations.

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The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers have reported that Football Australia are considering sacking him after next Tuesday’s dead rubber qualifier against Saudi Arabia, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the governing body’s decision-making.

The FA did not provide an immediate comment when contacted by Reuters on Saturday, but said in February it would back Arnold until qualifying was completed.

Arnold’s agent said the coach would not comment on whether he had the backing of the FA to continue in the role.

Arnold defended his team’s performance against the Blue Samurai and said he backed them to pass the June qualifiers in Qatar.

“I believe in these boys,” he said. “It’s one game at a time and one side at a time, and we’ll see what happens.”

Arnold could take comfort in recent history as Australia qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia via the playoff route under Ange Postecoglou.

Like Arnold now, Postecoglou was pilloried by former players and pundits for not getting an automatic ticket to Russia.

They forgave Postecoglou after Australia beat Syria and Honduras in the playoffs to qualify for Russia, but the coach resigned anyway citing job strain and a desire to return to club football .

Arnold faces a bigger mountain to climb, with Australia certain to face tougher South American opposition if they get past their first qualifier against an Asian team.

His side are arguably less equipped to meet the challenge than Postecoglou’s, with the Socceroos staff having failed to unearth and develop new talent throughout the World Cup cycle, particularly in attack and play. Midfielder.

This left Australia struggling to score against well-organized defenses overly reliant on regular playmakers Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy, whose absence against Japan was keenly felt.

Whether a new coach can fix that in less than three months before the playoffs is far from clear.

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Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Edmund Klamann

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