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Socceroos 2022 World Cup qualifying, Australia vs Oman, Australia vs Japan, standings, world ranking, news, scores, analysis, video

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After earning more than his fair share of criticism over the years, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has delivered a massive statement to the football world by guiding Australia to a world record.

After a gritty 3-1 win over Oman, the Socceroos now turn to a blockbuster clash with Japan – but there’s plenty of reason to believe Australia can claim a first-ever win on Japanese soil.

Meanwhile, Australia have racked up the goals in recent games – but the striking role still offers Arnold a significant selection headache. Luckily, there’s one reason he can rest easy at night over his side’s attack.

Here are all big talking points after the Socceroos win over Oman!

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ARNIE ANSWERS HIS CRITICS – AND BUILDS HIS LEGACY

It’s easy to underestimate this morning’s victory over Oman as insignificant – as just another step in the road to the World Cup, another expected win over a team ranked 45-odd places below Australia. The 3-1 final score makes it easier to downplay the tough task the Socceroos faced. But this match will go down in history, and hopefully this team will too.

The Socceroos became the first team to ever win 11 consecutive matches in one World Cup qualifying campaign. They surpass three iconic nations – Germany (Russia 2018), Spain (South Africa 2010), and Mexico (Germany 2006) as teams which claimed 10-straight wins.

10 of the Socceroos’ 11 victories came away from home.

The team has been forced to overcome an 18-month Covid hiatus and the subsequent inability of many Australian-based players to travel overseas. One of Australia’s first-choice strikers in Jamie Maclaren (five goals in his last five caps) hasn’t featured in the latest three games. Two players – Brad Smith then Milos Degenek – were ruled out of today’s clash due to Covid-19. The Socceroos have overcome all the obstacles and are in a strong position to reach a fifth-straight World Cup. 20 years ago, that would have felt like an impossible pipe dream.

Much of the credit must go to Graham Arnold. Today’s win was his 16th from 21 matches in charge of the Socceroos since taking over after the disappointing 2018 Russia World Cup. At over 76 per cent, that is the greatest win percentage of any permanent Socceroos manager (not including his former time as interim Australia boss in 2006-07, and excluding the games where Les Scheinflug was caretaker manager). Arguably even more importantly, he has introduced plenty of young players to the international stage and turned the Socceroos into an entertaining, attacking force. His influence is far greater than just the wins he’s racking up.

Arnold has copped plenty of criticism over the years in the A-League, as the Socceroos’ interim manager 15 years ago, for his brief stint in Japan, or his leadership of the Olyroos and other underage representative sides. But his record – and this remarkable 11-game record – should silence many of the critics.

He now has three key tasks to cement his legacy in Australian football. The first is to finish the job and qualify for the World Cup. The second is to perform well in the Cup itself – making it out of the group stage must be the immediate aim. The third is to win the Asian Cup, ensuring Australia regains its place at the top of the continent.

These are lofty goals. But, as Arnold so often says, he expects and demands great things of this team. If the Socceroos continue to play – and win – as they have in recent years, those expectations will only continue to rise.

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There was plenty of reason for celebration.
There was plenty of reason for celebration.Source: Getty Images

JAPAN’S DIRE STRAITS OFFERS ROO-GE OPPORTUNITY

When the draw for this stage of World Cup qualifying was announced, all eyes immediately were drawn to one fixture. Australia vs Japan on matchday four. Two of the biggest footballing nations in Asia. A rematch of THAT 2006 World Cup classic, or of the 2011 Asian Cup Final. The Socceroos haven’t beaten Japan since June 2009 (yes, really) and have never beaten the Samurai Blue on home soil.

But now the tables have turned. Australia is in red-hot form. Japan are struggling far more than anyone predicted in this stage of qualifying. They have now lost two games – 1-0 to Oman, and 1-0 to Saudi Arabia – and are already six points behind Australia and Saudi Arabia. With Oman and China also level on three points, defeat could leave Japan facing the stunning reality of potentially missing out on qualification from the group.

It is poised to be an absolute classic. And should Australia win on Tuesday night, the Socceroos (currently #32) might just overtake Japan (#26) on the world rankings and claim the moniker of Asia’s second-ranked team behind Iran.

Japan have lost two of their past three matches.Source: AFP

ROOS’ SECRET WEAPON DESPITE STRIKER HEADACHE

In their 11-win streak, the Socceroos have scored 35 goals and conceded just three. Usually, they have been exceptional defensively – but at times, such as against Oman, they rode their luck and could or should have conceded more.

But it is going forward that the Socceroos are most fascinating. Of the current Socceroos squad, no player has 10 international goals or more. Only Mat Leckie (out of the current squad due to Australia’s border restrictions) crosses the double-digit mark with 13 goals from 65 caps.

The centre-forward role is the position that appears to give Graham Arnold the greatest headache when he picks his starting 11. Adam Taggart has six goals from 15 international appearances, but hasn’t scored this year. Duke now has six in 12, including four in six appearances this year. Two of those have come in the last three games, coming on as a substitute for less than half an hour and sealing the game. Arnold appears likely to continue to unleash him off the bench, given his physicality and energy is so influential when opponents are tired.

Jamie Maclaren (stuck in Australia) has just six goals in 18 international appearances, but his record in recent years has been significantly better – six goals in 10 games under Arnold. All three are strong options going forward, and offer different advantages.

Ikonomidis’ late cameo keeps him in the conversation, while Leckie is also a dependable choice in the centre of the attack or out wide. And Daniel Arzani has also said that he is transitioning into a more central role so could be a surprise choice up front in the future.

While Arnold’s centre-forwards aren’t breaking scoring records anytime soon, Arnold doesn’t have to worry too much. The Socceroos are scoring a ton, and they’re just coming from all over the park. In the seven matches this year, there have been eleven different scorers: three defenders, three midfielders, and five forwards.

Martin Boyle couldn’t beat the keeper with his feet – so he turned to Australia’s secret weapon.Source: Getty Images

And there’s one particularly notable weapon in the Australian arsenal. Of the 35 goals in the 11 games, nearly half – 16 in all – have come via headers. Today it was Martin Boyle’s diving header from less than six yards. Two more great headed chances – one from Awer Mabil, the other from Mitch Duke – could well have added to that tally. And those three chances were all from open play. The delivery from wide free kicks and corners was poor – and even more headed goals could come if that is improved.

The Socceroos’ wingers and fullbacks love to bomb forward and launch cross after cross into the heart of the opponent’s box. It’s not necessarily the most efficient tactic but it works on quantity alone – only one or two need to pay off per game to keep that winning streak alive.

For now, Arnold will be hoping his side keep scoring as a unit, to keep the pressure off his striking corps. And he’ll surely keep heading practice front and centre of the training schedule.

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Thomas Tuchel may regret £17m Chelsea transfer that could cost Roman Abramovich double

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Thomas Tuchel may be kicking himself over one Chelsea departure.

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Newcastle United takeover, Saudi Arabia, Public Investment Fund, reaction, emergency meeting, who is Amanda Staveley?

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Newcastle are dreaming of glory but the rest of the Premier League has been left fuming after the Saudi-led consortium behind the blockbuster takeover outlined their “ambitious” plans.

Thousands of jubilant supporters swarmed to Newcastle’s St James’ Park stadium after the drawn-out £305 million ($A568 million) deal was agreed, chanting “we’ve got our club back”.

The takeover was rubber-stamped by the Premier League on Friday after it received legally binding assurances that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has an 80 per cent stake in the club, was not acting on behalf of the kingdom’s government.

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A Saudi-led consortium completed its takeover despite controversy. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)
A Saudi-led consortium completed its takeover despite controversy. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)Source: AFP

That is despite the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, being listed as the PIF’s chairman.

While the takeover cannot be stopped at this point, it has not stopped all other 19 top-flight clubs from voicing their opposition.

According to a report from The Guardian, all other teams are “united in opposition” to the takeover and “demanding to know what changed for it to be waved through”.

The lack of notice provided to the clubs is also understood to be a point of contention amid claims they only found out via the media on Thursday.

Issues of confidentiality and legality would have likely been at the centre of the league’s decision to not share developments in the Newcastle takeover with clubs.

That is far from the only issue the 19 clubs have though, with concerns over how the league’s brand could be damaged by the Public Investment Fund’s takeover.

Despite glee among fans, the takeover deal was greeted with dismay by Amnesty, who described it as “an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders”.

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Newcastle United supporters celebrate but not everyone is happy. (Photo by – / AFP)Source: AFP

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty UK’s CEO, said: “We can understand that this will be seen as a great day by many Newcastle United fans, but it’s also a very worrying day for anyone who cares about the ownership of English football clubs and whether these great clubs are being used to sportswash human rights abuse.”

Saudi Arabia faced international condemnation following the brutal murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate three years ago.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Khashoggi, said the Saudi-backed takeover was “heartbreaking”.

“I am very disappointed,” she told the BBC.

“What I’ve been doing since his murder is seeking justice for Jamal every day, every chance that I found or every place I can go and ask more.

“Then suddenly, I saw the news and people were talking about the takeover and I said ‘please, do not do that, please be respectful to yourself’.”

Newcastle, languishing second from bottom of the Premier League without a win in seven games, will hope to follow the template established by reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.

The takeover went ahead despite warnings from Amnesty International that the deal represented ‘sportswashing’ of the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record. (Photo by – / AFP)Source: AFP

They have become serial trophy winners since a 2008 takeover by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

New director Amanda Staveley, a driving force behind the takeover, vowed to transform the club into Premier League champions in the long-term.

“Of course we have the same ambitions as Manchester City and PSG in terms of trophies, absolutely, but that will take time,” Staveley told the Daily Mail.

“Do we want to win the Premier League within five to 10 years? Yes. We want to see trophies. But trophies need investment, time, patience and team work.”

Staveley said she had spoken to under-fire boss Steve Bruce and while she insisted no decisions had been made about the future of the manager, his departure seems likely.

Bruce said he wanted to continue but accepted he may be replaced.

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Man Utd’s defensive XI if Gareth Southgate replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager

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Manchester United have previously been linked with Gareth Southgate.

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