If not him, then who?
There are a few obvious options. Kevin Muscat, fresh from winning the J.League with Yokohama F. Marinos, looks ripe for the challenge and has a proven ability to combine entertaining attacking football with the kind of hard edge he showed as a player. Aussie DNA, you might call it.
The problem with him is that the former Melbourne Victory boss is already getting a lot of interest from clubs in Europe, and those close to him say his career takes him above the Socceroos. FA should at least ask the question.
Tony Popovic has long been discussed as a potential Socceroos candidate – he’s got the runs on the board, and his ethos seems fit for the international arena too, but the Victory struggle under his watch, and it would be a big call to hand over the reins to a coach with no currency in that sense. That is also the case for John Aloisiwho won the A-League with Western United last season but is overseeing what can only be described as a championship hangover this season.
FA officials could also look to an overseas coach – but if they do they would want to spend their new found money on a world class manager who is fully committed to the job, willing to rely on homegrown talent and to deal with the unique foibles of the Aussie game. It might be easier to stick with a local, especially since we seem to be in the middle of a ‘golden generation’ of coaches.
When is the next big tournament?
Good question. Originally scheduled for mid-2023, the Asian Cup was to be hosted by China, but they returned the rights due to issues with their COVID-zero policy. Qatar – who else – came in as a replacement, but there are rumors that they want to move the tournament to January 2024. Keep an eye on this space.
And the next World Cup?
The 2026 edition is co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. It will also be the first with 48 teams, up from the usual 32 – and while the FIFA Council has previously voted to split them into 16 groups of three teams each, this is a hugely unpopular idea with fans, who cherish the drama . involved in the current four-team group structure, and FIFA would be open to reviewing their plans.
What do the playing ranks look like?
Pretty good, as this World Cup has shown, and as keen A-League observers will already know. While six current Socceroos are 30 or older and likely won’t be around by the end of the next four-year cycle – including key players Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie and Mitch Duke – there are some great kids coming through.
Some of them, like Garang Kuol, Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles, were already in Qatar, but plenty of others are on the periphery and could break through the door of the national team if they can make the right moves, find a good place get hold of. clubs abroad and regularly play football.
Yes, Arnold has expressed “serious concerns” about the country’s development trajectories, and there are major issues to be addressed, but there’s enough talent waiting to be harnessed to give fans cause for optimism. It’s a mug game, but this is what the bigger picture could look like in four years.
When does qualifying start?
The days of struggling to qualify for the World Cup, or having to play the playoffs again, are definitely over. The representation of Asia grows from four direct slots to eight. If the Socceroos are honest – and after the last few weeks we can say they are – they will make it to 2026 with their eyes closed.
As Australia is one of the best countries in the confederation, the qualification process for the Socceroos will not start until the end of November 2023, when the second round will start. It features nine pools of four teams each, all playing each other twice, home and away.
The top two teams of the group then advance to the third round, where there are three groups of six – and from there, the top two teams qualify directly for the next World Cup. But even if disaster strikes, there is a safety guarantee: the teams that finish third and fourth in those groups will advance to the fourth round, where they will be split into two groups of three teams.
The winners of these also qualify directly and the runners-up go through to the fifth round.
None of this should really concern the Socceroos, although the low pressure of the new qualifying track could offer a new coach – or Arnold – a chance to adapt to a new style of play without worrying about securing results that should come. quite easy anyway. The trade-off is that the opposition they will face will be weaker, and they may not be sufficiently steeled for the caliber of the teams they will face at the World Cup.
Either way, and no matter how fast standards rise in Asia – don’t worry, Australia will be there again at the next World Cup and probably never miss another one.
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