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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Sport
Andy Hampson

‘Putting smiles on Australian faces once is not enough’ – confident Socceroos manager Graham Arnold

Australia manager Graham Arnold is hoping the Socceroos can advance to the round of 16 in Qatar. Photo: PA

Australia coach Graham Arnold believes his side can unite the country in a way other sports cannot by reaching the World Cup last 16.

The Socceroos can secure a place in the knockout stage at Qatar 2022 with victory over Denmark in their final Group D game today.

Barring a surprise win for Tunisia over reigning champions France, a draw would even suffice.

Australia have not qualified from their group at a World Cup since 2006 and, after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Tunisia generated huge excitement, Arnold feels there is now a big opportunity for football Down Under.

The Australian footballing landscape is dominated by Aussie rules and the two rugby codes, but, while those sports are strong in certain parts of the country, they are weaker in others.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Arnold said: “Something that’s been proven right is that there’s one football team, sporting team, that unites the nation and it’s the Socceroos.

“When you look at the celebrations in Federation Square down in Melbourne, and I’ve had a few mates send videos of how crazy the place is going, it just shows you that football is alive and well in Australia.

“Putting smiles on Australian faces once is not enough, let’s do it some more times. To leave a legacy is huge. It’s about putting the game on the map a bit more in Australia.”

Arnold, however, recognises the task is far from straightforward.

Denmark, despite failing to win either of their opening two games, still retain hope of qualifying themselves.

Manager Kasper Hjulmand believes the contest at the Al Janoub Stadium will be an open one. “I definitely expect them to attack and run at us,” he said.

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