Australian coach Graham Arnold wants the Socceroos back home and playing in front of fans for their vital upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
- Graham Arnold says the Socceroos need fans back as they try to seal a spot in the World Cup
- The Socceroos have played 11 of their 12 qualifying matches away from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic
- They are second in their group with six matches remaining
The Socceroos lost 2-1 to Japan in Saitama on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of nearly 15,000 fans, a defeat which ended their record 11-game winning streak.
Australia is in second spot in the group, three points clear of Japan, and if things stay as they are they will qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Arnold said he believed the home support had given Japan a boost, after the Samurai Blue lost two of their first three games in the decisive qualifiers.
“I think the crowd had a big part to do with that [Japan coming home strongly],” Arnold said.
“I have watched Japan play the last three games without a crowd and their energy was nowhere near where it was tonight.”
The Socceroos have played 12 matches in various qualifying stages as they try to seal a place in the finals in Qatar.
Eleven of them have been played away from home, due to scheduling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are six rounds of matches left in qualifying, with the top two sides earning a ticket to the World Cup, and the third-placed team going into a play-off.
The next matches are set for next month, and Arnold said he wanted the NSW government to allow the team to play in front of fans in Sydney.
He said letting home fans in would “really help us”.
“I do believe that [in] the second half [in Saitama] we kicked into gear, we fought the crowd, we did very well, we got back to 1-1.
“And then probably the crowd noise, the energy the crowd gave the [Japan] players in the last 15 minutes, helped get them home.
“So again, I just really appeal to the government to help us on this journey to qualify for a World Cup.