Arnold nearly quit Australia job during hard road to Qatar

FIFA World Cup Qualifier - United Arab Emirates v Australia
Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qualifier - United Arab Emirates v Australia - Al Rayyan Stadium, Doha, Qatar - June 7, 2022 Australia coach Graham Arnold REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous

June 14 (Reuters) - Australia coach Graham Arnold said he nearly quit during the team's rocky road to the Qatar World Cup but felt obliged to repay his players for their sacrifices.

Arnold guided Australia to a fifth successive World Cup with a shootout win over Peru in Doha on Monday, effectively saving his job after he came under huge pressure as the Socceroos struggled during qualifying. read more

Arnold was beset with challenges, testing positive to COVID-19 twice in three months this year, while losing the services of a number of players due to the coronavirus.

The isolation from his squad proved almost too hard to bear, Arnold said.

"My style is man management and getting the best out of players and doing things face-to-face," he told reporters.

"Trying to do meetings and talk to the players on Zoom meetings, it's not my style, I don't like it and I didn't like it at all.

"I'll be honest, there were times where I nearly walked away because it's not my style of coaching.

"The only reason I didn't walk away was because of the players, their sacrifices they've made."

With Australia's borders effectively shut until late last year due to the pandemic, the Socceroos played the lion's share of their qualifiers offshore.

Despite the challenges, media pundits and fans were unforgiving and demanded Arnold be sacked when Australia failed to seal automatic qualification.

That made their 5-4 win on penalties over Peru, sealed with a save from dancing substitute goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, all the more sweet. read more

"I'm quite speechless at the moment because no-one in Australia gave us a chance," said 58-year-old Arnold.

"A lot of (the players) felt that we didn't have the support back at home ... But they kept belief and that's the most important thing. And I'll go and enjoy a beer with them tonight."

Former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou came under similar pressure to Arnold five years ago when the Socceroos laboured to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Postecoglou successfully steered Australia through playoffs against Syria and Honduras but quit a few weeks after sealing qualification to Russia, citing the toll of the job as a factor.

Arnold is unlikely to follow Postecoglou's example only five months out from Qatar, where Australia will be in Group D against champions France, Denmark and Tunisia.

"We're going to be strong for the World Cup," he said.

"We're going to go to the World Cup with a lot of belief."

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.