Graham Arnold will rely on ‘honest conversations’ with players, urging them to put the nation before themselves, as he weighs up the effects of a brutal World Cup turnaround in selecting his team for the biggest match in Socceroos history.
Arnold knows every player in his squad is desperate to line up against Lionel Messi and Argentina on Sunday morning (6am AEDT), with an unprecedented quarter-final berth at stake.
The coach is yet to make more than one change for any game at this World Cup but the Round of 16 is a different kettle of fish given Australia, and Argentina, have just three days between matches to prepare – a day less than was the case during the gruelling group stage.
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Australian players who featured in the 1-0 win over world No.10 Denmark were taken to Doha’s Aspetar sports science hospital on Friday for a full analysis of their condition.
“I’ve got to see that over the next 48 hours to see which ones are stiff or have knocks and can’t recover,’’ Arnold said.
“It’s going to be an honest conversation from myself to the players. Because I know every one of those players want to start. But it’s not about them. It’s about the team and the nation. They’ve got to be honest back.
“Obviously we’ve got great medical staff and I sit down pretty much always with the individual to see how he is personally, professional.
“And if there is a player that says ‘look, I feel like I can’t start’ they’ve got to be honest. Let us make those changes and they may come on for the last half hour. Instead of starting you can come on and finish a game for us and run it out.”
Arnold dropped a few selection hints but identified defender Milos Degenek – who came in at right back against Denmark – as the “number one’ player most capable of backing up.
“Physically, he’s such a good professional. It’s crazy,” Arnold said.
Arnold also suggested it was conceivable a player yet to be used in the Qatar campaign could start.
“Marco Tilio has scored against Argentina at the Olympics, he’s already dreaming,” he said
“You’ve got those types of players that we’ve kept fresh and can come on and do a job.”
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Arnold has been emphatic about the fact that his team – only the second to reach the knockouts and the first to win two group stage matches – is not finished yet.
“I know I keep saying this but we want more. This is a dream come true, playing against Lionel Messi in a World Cup,” Arnold said.
“It’s about getting ourselves ready, getting ourselves right and as I keep saying, making sure the focus is on ourselves and we recover well and we sleep well and move forward.
“ It’s (the short turnaround) is an excuse now. At the end of the day, they played four hours later than us so we have had four hours more time to recover than them so they’re in the same position as us.
“Mentally we just have got to get ourselves ready.”