Socceroos to continue World Cup qualifying campaign at CommBank Stadium

Socceroos to continue World Cup qualifying campaign at CommBank Stadium
  • PublishedDecember 6, 2023

National coach Graham Arnold has stressed the importance of a strong Asian Cup showing from the Socceroos to ensure they have a “better” qualifying path to the FIFA 2026 World Cup.

The venue for Australia’s next match on its World Cup qualifying road was confirmed on Wednesday, with the Socceroos to meet Lebanon in a Group I AFC second-round qualifier will be held at CommBank Stadium on March 21.

The Socceroos currently top the four-team group on six points, four more than second-placed Lebanon, with Palestine and Bangladesh each on one point.

Following the completion of the second-round qualifiers, the top two nations from each of the nine groups will progress to the next round of the World Cup qualification process.

In the third round, the 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six.

Arnold is desperate to ensure the Socceroos are the top seed in their group, which based on the current world rankings, they wouldn’t, as at No.25 in the world, they are the fourth highest ranked AFC nation behind Japan (17), Iran (21) and South Korea (23).

A strong performance at the Asian Cup, which starts next month in Qatar, would boost the Socceroos chances of moving further up the world rankings and high enough to among Asia’s top three nations.

“If you do well at the Asian Cup and your ranking goes up, it makes our World Cup qualifiers and draw better for us,” Arnold said.

“That’s the message to the players. At the moment we’re sitting fourth in Asia … so it’s important if we can, to do really well and get up in pot one (which consists of the top three Asian teams), and that will help our draw completely.

“There’s a lot to consider with the Asian Cup.”

Graham Arnold’s Socceroos will meet Lebanon in Sydney in March. Picture: William West / AFP

Graham Arnold’s Socceroos will meet Lebanon in Sydney in March. Picture: William West / AFP

Arnold is close to finalising his 23-strong Asian Cup squad.

Western Sydney Wanderers striker Brandon Borrello (foot) and St Mirren defender Ryan Strain (groin) are certain absentees, while Middlesbrough midfielder Riley McGree (foot) is racing against the clock to prove his fitness.

“There are some players that are not getting game time as well, and for me that’s important that they are,” Arnold said.

“We’ve got three weeks to keep watching and looking at the players. making sure that they’re fit and ready, and getting that squad right.

“The time of giving chances is pretty much over. That’s what the last seven months have been all about.”

The Socceroos coach said evergreen Melbourne Victory striker Bruno Fornaroli, who has starred in the A-League this season, was in selection contention.

“I’ve known Bruno and what he can do for a long time,” said Arnold, who gave the naturalised Uruguay-born striker his Socceroos debut last year.

“He’s like any other A-League player. I don’t think they’re at their best at the moment, the A-League players, because they’ve only had (six) games.

SOURCE: NEWS.COM

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