‘The hunger has never been stronger’: Arnold seals four more years with Socceroos

Graham Arnold says he has more to give the Socceroos and Australian football after signing a four-year contract extension that will take him through to the end of the World Cup in 2026.

Arnold’s job was hanging by a thread a year ago after the national team struggled to qualify for Qatar 2022, missing out on a direct berth at the tournament through the Asian confederation.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is staying on for four more years.Credit:Getty Images

But he masterminded an incredible penalty shootout win over Peru in the intercontinental play-offs to book Australia’s spot in a tough World Cup group with France, Tunisia and Denmark. He then steered the Socceroos to their best finish at a World Cup, winning two games for the first time before falling just short against eventual champions Argentina in the round of 16.

The Socceroos were ranked 11th overall and Arnold was rated the tournament’s best coach by hard-marking French sports newspaper L’Equipe, boosting his bargaining power with Football Australia.

Arnold’s contract expired with the final kick of the ball in Qatar. He has spent the past two months mulling his future, weighing up a potential move overseas with either a club or a rival national team. Football Australia has also carefully reviewed the coach and team’s performance before making him a formal offer, but made it clear from the outset Arnold was the top choice.

It was always going to be a question of whether Arnold wanted a new challenge or to stay with the Socceroos – and his answer is unequivocal.

“I love Australia and I love Australian football, and nothing in football can ever match the elation, pride and sense of achievement, I and the entire set-up felt in Qatar,” he said in a statement.

“The hunger to continue in the role has never been stronger and I know I have more to give to the Socceroos’ program and Australian football, where I want to deliver more smiles for our fans as we did in Qatar.”

Arnold becomes the first Socceroos boss to be re-signed since Frank Farina. Assuming he sees out his new deal and gets them to the next World Cup, he will become the first to coach the team at two World Cup finals.

Graham Arnold after the loss to Argentina.Credit:AP

Arnold’s next major challenge involves a return to Qatar, which will host the Asian Cup in January 2024. He said he would approach the next cycle with a clean sheet.

Qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, to be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico, will not begin for the Socceroos until November. With the tournament expanding to 48 teams, the process is expected to be a comparative breeze compared to what Arnold and his predecessors have gone through before in Asia.

There is also an exciting new generation of Australian talent coming through, including star centre-back Harry Souttar, attacking dynamo Garang Kuol and midfielder Keanu Baccus. They and others have already been included in the Socceroos set-up by Arnold, who will also take on an expanded role as a mentor for Australia’s junior male national team coaches and assist FA’s chief football officer Ernie Merrick in reviewing the country’s talent identification process and development pathways.

Arnold declared two other goals for his next contract period: securing a permanent “home of football” for the Socceroos, Matildas and other national teams; and unlocking high-performance funding from the government.

“I’m hugely passionate about our pathways and ensuring we are not only producing more elite talent through a connected pyramid, but making sure those footballers are getting the right opportunities to fulfil their dreams, whether it’s here in Australia or overseas,” Arnold said.

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport. Returns for the Round of 16, with all the action streaming ad-free, live and on demand from February 15.

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