Australia Coach Graham Arnold Relishing Argentina Encounter

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Australia coach Graham Arnold said his side were not intimidated by the might of football powerhouse Argentina ahead of their World Cup clash, insisting the South Americans “bring out the best in us”.

Pointing to last year’s 2-0 Olympic triumph over Argentina as well as a 4-1 win in the Bicentennial Gold Cup in 1988, Arnold said underdogs Australia were “inspired” to face the two-time world champions.

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“When I think back to my playing career it is one of the highlights of my life, being able to play against Argentina,” Arnold said on the eve of Saturday’s last-16 match in Qatar

“I just think that Argentina bring the best out of Australia. Our performances every time against Argentina have been very strong and very good.

“Playing against that type of talent, and that name I think resonates right across the world — It’s a football nation and it is inspiring to play against them.”

Arnold said the Socceroos, who were swept aside 4-1 in their opening game against France before winning their next two against Tunisia and Denmark, needed a 120-minute performance.

“We have to make sure our brains are switched on. When you relax, that’s when they hit you,” he said.

Australia’s performances have captivated people back home, with fans celebrating in huge numbers on the streets and Arnold said he was proud that the team had “united” the country after the coronavirus pandemic.

“One thing that we have achieved back in Australia is obviously reuniting the nation after Covid and reuniting our sport of football,” he said.

“But we want more. We haven’t finished yet. We’re turning up to win another game tomorrow.”

Arnold recalled his playing days, when Australia came up against a Diego Maradona-led Argentina in World Cup play-offs in 1993.

Maradona set up a goal in a 1-1 draw in Sydney and Argentina won the return fixture 1-0.

“I don’t think he had that much of an influence — he set up a goal in Sydney — but you couldn’t get near him. You couldn’t kick him, he was that smart,” said Arnold.

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