The Socceroos World Cup qualifying campaign has reached a critical juncture, and they’ll have little time to take in the comforts of home on Thursday when they face a red-hot Saudi Arabia in Parramatta.
What Arnold’s side has achieved during their two years abroad has been incredible, but their world record qualifying win streak and general goodwill will evaporate should they lose this match and fall back to the pack in Group B.
‘It’s huge for so many reasons. It’s just massive to have the Socceroos back on home soil, you don’t know what you’re missing until its gone’, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Vince Rugari told Box2Box.
‘Socceroos games have been such a huge part of the Australian football calendar and especially at this point of the qualification cycle, it will be super to have them back.’
‘In terms of the machinations of the group it’s an enormous game. We win here were practically qualified… lose though, and we’re right back with the pack and will have to deal with the confidence hit of losing two games in a row.’
Saudi Arabia’s French manager Hervé Renard has overseen a successful two-year period comparable to Arnold: they’ve won nine straight and dropped just one in 15, as they look to make amends for their disappointing 2018 World Cup.
‘They’re flying, although it’s worth noting every game they’ve played this year has been if not in Saudi then in Oman, so nearby. They beat Japan, beat China, and won 3-0 versus Uzbekistan in the previous stage, who gave us troubles at the last Asian Cup.’
This Socceroos match will sit in the middle of five fixtures that have seen Australian national teams return home, bookended by Matildas dual-friendlies against Brazil last month and the USA in three weeks time.
All five have been assigned to New South Wales. It’s understandably drawn frustration from supporters elsewhere, especially considering Perth, Adelaide and Canberra are lucky to host a game every four years at the best of times.
But Rugari pointed out the New South Wales government spent months pushing for football’s return, including attempting to host June’s second round qualification hub, ultimately played in Kuwait.
‘It is a bit lazy for people to look at it on surface level and claim NSWS bias… the reason these games are happening in NSW is because they were the most willing to bend the rules to let them happen here.’
‘The Queensland government have been notorious for shunning football, the Victorian government have had their own issues around football, and famously didn’t think the Asian Cup was going to be that big a deal, and that sort of blew up in their face.’
‘The reality is discussions for these games coming up, the NSW Government has been talking to Football Australia about having international football played here since March this year.’
‘No other state has been willing to talk to Football Australia at that level this year, but NSW were keen to do this since March, so they are front of the queue for me.’