Super coach Guus Hiddink has praised the “beautiful job” his pupil Graham Arnold performed in guiding the Socceroos to this year’s World Cup.
Hiddink and Arnold have reunited in Brisbane for the Socceroos’ clash against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Arnold was Hiddink’s assistant 16 years ago when the legendary Dutch mentor was in charge of the Socceroos at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Under Hiddink, the Socceroos not only qualified for a World Cup for the first time in 32 years, they also reached the knockout stages before being eliminated by eventual champions Italy.
Since then, the Socceroos haven’t missed a World Cup, but have battled at times under Arnold in the past 18 months in a tough qualifying campaign affected by the ramifications of Covid-19.
However, Arnold’s man-management was superb, with the spirit he garnered in the squad evident as the Socceroos secured qualification for Qatar 2022 via a penalty shootout in the intercontinental playoff success Peru.
“I’m very proud of him, ” Hiddink said of Arnold.
“When I started here, I knew many players, but I needed a lot of information from him (Arnold) as well, which I got, and then you can work with that.
“If you see how he’s made it (over) the years and with the Olympic team (as well) … I respect him very much.”
It’s admiration that’s reciprocated, with Arnold delighted Hiddink answered his call to be part of his staff for at least part of the two-match series against New Zealand in the absence of Socceroos assistant coach Rene Meulensteen, who will instead scout two of Australia’s World Cup opponents – France and Denmark – during this week’s FIFA international window.
“We need our best for the World Cup,” Arnold said.
“We need the fittest, we need the freshest and we need the best.
“I know with Guus’ eye of what he has on talent, but also on the way he speaks to players, that this camp can be a real bonus for that.
“I do know how much he loved coaching the Socceroos, because we talk about it so much.”
Hiddink said he was “curious” to find out from Arnold as much as he could about the Socceroos’ 31-man squad which has assembled in Brisbane this week.
“(Arnold) did a beautiful job to qualify and now he’s depending a bit on their shape and how they practice with clubs,” he said.
“But they seem to be very fit and fresh – fit physically and the freshness in their mind. There is no doubt with the Australians, they are always fresh in their minds. They fight.”
Arnold is yet to settle on his line-up for Thursday night’s match, which will celebrate the Socceroos’ 100-year anniversary.
However, he did reveal that “10 or 11 players” would be cut from the squad before the Socceroos left for Auckland for the second match of the series on Sunday.
“Those players will be upset because they want to play both games to have two chances, but we’ve picked a bigger squad to see a plan B or C (for the World Cup),” Arnold said.