Socceroos boss Graham Arnold remains stoic about his future as national coach, but admits calls for his sacking have taken a toll on his family.

With speculation mounting that he will be axed after the Socceroos’ match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday morning (AEDT), Arnold said he was only focused on trying to “help these boys fulfil their dreams” rather than be concerned with his own coaching future.

Despite saying he had blocked out the “external noise”, Arnold said the dramas of the past couple of weeks – including being fined a hefty $25,000 by Football Australia for breaching NSW health protocols by going to a brief swim to treat his allergies on the advice of doctors and losing 2-0 to Japan, a defeat that ended Australia’s hopes of direct World Cup qualification – had made him a “much stronger person”.

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However, Arnold admitted that calls for his head had affected his family.

“The only one that has told me a little bit is my wife, who has been hurt by it. She’s the one that’s checking in on me, and I’m fine,” he said.

“This is always part of the job. I understand it with coaching and with the trade that I’m in – this is the way it works at times.

“I know that I’ve given my best and I am giving my best to help the players. I’ve just got to get on with it.”

Regardless of the result against the already qualified Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, Australia can finish no higher than third place in Group B in the Asian Football Confederation’s third round of World Cup qualifiers.

Having missed a top-two Group B berth, the Socceroos must now qualify for the World Cup via sudden death playoffs in June in Qatar.

The first will be against the nation finishing third in the AFC’s Group B. Three countries – UAE, Iraq and Lebanon – remain in contention for place third.

The winner of that game will meet the nation finishing fifth in the South American qualifiers for a World Cup berth.

Battling it out for fifth spot are Peru, Colombia and Chile.

“The reality is today we are in the same place as where we were four years ago, and other times, with playoffs,” Arnold said.

“Of course I want to be here (as Socceroos coach), or else I wouldn’t be here.

“The journey’s been good. The journey’s been tough. The last three camps we’ve not been able to have our best players.

“That’s another story … about the system of development.”

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is under pressure to retain his job. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold is under pressure to retain his job. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The Socceroos have won just one of their past six World Cup qualifying games.

Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury said the Australians needed to gain “momentum” ahead of the playoffs by beating Saudi Arabia.

“Putting on the green and gold is always a privilege and honour, so there has never been a dead rubber to me,” Sainsbury told the Socceroos website.

“Obviously we can’t go directly to the World Cup now, but we have a chance to take some momentum into upcoming games.”

He said the Socceroos’ past playoff experiences, including in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, could come in handy in June.

“You just have to prepare like it is another game. We know what is at stake and we aren’t doing it for ourselves, we are doing it for our friends and family back home,” he said.

Sunderland centre-back Bailey Wright has linked with the Socceroos in Jeddah, after fellow defenders Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC) and Milos Degenek (Columbus Crew) returned to their clubs following the loss to Japan.

With Grant and Degenek both close to suspension due to yellow cards, the decision was made not to risk them this week to ensure their availability for June’s playoffs.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – AFC Asian qualifiers (third round)

Saudi Arabia v Australia

Wednesday, 5am (AEDT)

King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Live: Network 10



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