Sitting down in front of the media, Graham Arnold was congratulated by those in attendance. Not just for the Socceroos’ first-up 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifier but for something else.
Arnold made history, surpassing Frank Farina’s record for most ‘A’ Internationals as Socceroos boss with his 59th match at the helm. It ended in a 7-0 demolition of Bangladesh in their World Cup qualifying opener on Thursday night.
The record-breaking coach’s sole focus was on the fixture at AAMI Park, but once the dust had settled, he was able to reflect on an emotional pre-game video that featured Australian sporting royalty.
“Oh mate, I couldn’t talk after it,” Arnold said of the video that was shown to him and the players before the game on Wednesday.
“Having such Australian coaching legends like Wayne Bennett, Trent Robinson, a good friend of mine Jeff Fenech. Giving me those kind of messages, as well as players that I coached, it was just incredible. It was quite emotional for me, with my family on it.
“It was fantastic.”
Arnold also revealed Socceroos legend Guus Hiddink had sent him a text on the eve of Australia’s crushing win – headlined by Jamie Maclaren’s second-half hat-trick, Mitch Duke’s double, Harry Souttar’s early header and Brandon Borrello’s strike.
“Now I’m the new Aussie boss he calls me,” he joked. “He still tries to claim he’s still the Aussie boss.”
There were various layers to the Socceroos’ one-sided triumph on a special night for Australian football, the first World Cup qualifier of a new campaign, before heading to Kuwait to face Palestine.
Thursday marked 18 years to the day since John Aloisi stepped up to convert a dramatic penalty against Uruguay, ending the country’s 32-year wait for World Cup qualification.
The 1973 Socceroos squad – led by the late and great Rale Rasic – were also honoured pre-game, with Arnold at the centre of it.
“That was brilliant. Well done to FA for bringing them down,” he reflected.
“The 50-year anniversary. There was a number of people in that group – my coaches when I played that I stay in contact with today.
“It was great to see them on the field. Again, it gave the boys that bit more inspiration.
“When the game started, it was probably down to them to help that kind of start.”
On the match itself, which featured a four-goal first half, Arnold added: “I reflect well on the performance.
“It was a goal of ours to get three or four goals in the first half so I could take off three of the older boys to get them ready for Palestine.
“Overall it was a good performance but I think we still need to be ruthless in front of goal. It could’ve been double-figures easily and it should’ve been.”
Arnold and the Socceroos will now turn their attention to the showdown with Palestine in Kuwait on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT).
The match has been moved to a neutral venue due to the conflict in the Middle East, and Arnold is tweaking his approach, including a chartered flight, to help the Socceroos in their quest on the road to the 2026 World Cup.
“Just changing what I learnt and try to improve things. Just changing our model a little bit,” he said.
“Instead of rushing over tomorrow morning over to the Middle East, tomorrow the boys will have a day off here to catch up with family and friends. It will give them two good nights of sleep.”