Football Australia has opted for short-term stability after giving its backing to the under-fire Socceroos coach, Graham Arnold, who will remain in charge of the national team until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualification campaign.
The vote of confidence comes despite a woeful recent run of results that has put his team’s chances of reaching the tournament in Qatar in the balance.
FA on Thursday confirmed Arnold will remain in his position for the upcoming Asian confederation play-off against UAE on 7 June, and the potential intercontinental play-off with Peru that would follow the week after.
FA said it would continue to work closely with Arnold ahead of the crucial game in Doha, where the Socceroos will attempt to arrest a run of two defeats and a draw, and a total of just six points claimed from their last seven qualifying matches.
“The board of Football Australia believed it was important that we provided a stable environment and to get on with planning for the play-off phase given the very short turn-around,” said FA chair Chris Nikou.
“By confirming that Graham will remain head coach of the Socceroos until the completion of our Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 campaign, it enables Graham, his support staff and the playing group to move forward with certainty, and without delay, to ensure the best possible preparation for the next phase of qualification.”
Australia’s hopes of automatically qualifying for the 2022 World Cup were ended with a 2-0 home defeat to Japan last week, rendering their final Group B match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday a dead rubber. An experimental side fell 1-0 in Jeddah, leaving the Socceroos with a record of four wins, three draws and three losses from the third stage of Asian qualifying, and prompting speculation about Arnold’s future.
The Saudis and Japan claimed the two direct qualification spots available.
FA chief executive James Johnson said Arnold had the governing body’s full support and that the coach still has the opportunity to “finish the job he was appointed to in 2018 and see through his commitment to the national team”.
“As we have done throughout the campaign, we will work closely with Graham to ensure the team has the necessary resources, support and the approach required to achieve the best possible outcome and ultimately qualification to our fifth consecutive Fifth World Cup.”