Socceroos coach Graham Arnold calls for review of Australian football pathways

Arnold said he took on an additional role as coach of the Olyroos, Australia’s male under-23s side, through qualification for the Tokyo Olympics only because he saw a lack of depth in the senior ranks after the last World Cup. Arnold signed on as Bert van Marwijk’s replacement after Russia 2018.


There are 10 players in Australia’s 26-man World Cup squad from the Olyroos contingent in Tokyo – including Mitchell Duke, who was named as an overage player – but Arnold said that was a “quick fix”, not a sustainable long-term solution.

“When I first got appointed to the job, [I went] to Russia, and I watched them play. I could see straight away that Cahill, Jedinak, Milligan, Kruse, and an ageing squad was there,” he said.

“I’d already taken the job, I needed to find players. And then when I started looking, there was nothing coming through.

“When you’re ringing A-League coaches, and you’re talking about two players per club, I barely could put a squad together to go to Thailand, and even to Cambodia [for Olympic qualifiers]. That’s not right.


“We need more kids given an opportunity in Australia. For me, there’s massive concerns for the future moving forward, unless it’s fixed.”

Arnold also had to resort to other, more creative methods to find quality players – Harry Souttar, Martin Boyle and Jason Cummings, who were all born and raised in Scotland but have Aussie heritage, have played varying roles in the Socceroos’ qualifying campaign. Boyle would have joined the other two in their World Cup squad if he hadn’t been injured.

There is also clear dysfunction at the grassroots, with rising AS Roma star Cristian Volpato – one of the best prospects to have emerged from Australia in recent years – turned away from two A-League academies before moving to Italy and becoming a Serie A regular. Arnold tried to select him for Qatar, but Volpato, 19, chose not to join the Socceroos and appears to be holding out hope of representing the Azzurri.

Once again, Arnold pointed out the rising standards across Asian football, which the Socceroos may soon have trouble matching without significant change.

Asked what he would do to address the issues he saw within the sport back home, he quipped: “Hire about 150 people.”

“At this moment, I’m focused on this, and then I’m focused on a break. But the game is growing and growing and growing right across the world,” he said.

“Asia is growing so quickly. People can sit back at home, their opinions may be that Saudi [Arabia] is not that good, or Japan – look what they’ve done. They beat Argentina and Germany.

“Asia has thrown a lot of money into football. And we need to catch up and do the same thing.”

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