The Socceroos’ journey to the 2026 World Cup began this month with two wins over Bangladesh and Palestine.
While the outcome was the same in both games – a valuable three points secured in the lengthy qualification journey – the matches themselves were starkly different. It began about as well as Socceroos’ fans could have hoped with a 7-0 thumping on home soil, but was followed by a tense 1-0 win where Australia performed well below their best.
Now the road to 2026 is put on hold for Graham Arnold and his Socceroos as attention turns to a more pressing concern: January’s Asian Cup in Qatar.
It is a rare chance for major silverware for the Socceroos, who have won the competition just once before (in 2015 in Australia).
And on the back of a best-ever World Cup performance in 2022 – also in Qatar – expectations are understandably high for Australia.
But much has changed for the Socceroos in the 12 months since that World Cup began, and Arnold now faces a tricky balancing act between short-term trophy-hunting and the long-term development of his squad with 2026 on the horizon.
With a host of young talents on the rise, there will be plenty of difficult selection decisions to make – but the tournament provides a key opportunity for Arnold’s Socceroos to take a major step forward.
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WHY THE TIMING IS ALL WRONG
The tournament itself comes at an awkward and inopportune time for Australia. It was scheduled to be held in June of this year, only for China to withdraw from hosting in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Qatar picked up the tournament but, like the World Cup, weather conditions forced a shift from mid-year to the coolerRead on foxsports.com.au