SYDNEY (Reuters) - Graham Arnold will succeed Dutchman Bert van Marwijk as Australia coach after the World Cup in Russia and look to guide the Socceroos to a fifth successive appearance at the 2022 global showpiece in Qatar.
A stalwart of Australian soccer, the Sydney FC coach returns for a second stint in the top job, having led the national team for a year after Guus Hiddink stepped down following the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Van Marwijk will hold the reins in Russia as part of a short-term deal struck in the wake of Ange Postecoglou’s shock resignation in November after securing the team’s qualification via an intercontinental playoff.
The Dutchman brings plenty of international experience to the job but Australia’s soccer federation made little secret of their desire for another home-grown coach, like Postecoglou, to take the Socceroos through the next World Cup cycle.
Graham’s first major assignment will be to plot the side’s defence of its Asian Cup title in the United Arab Emirates next January.
The 54-year-old led Australia to a disappointing quarter-final exit at the regional showpiece held in Southeast Asia 11 years ago and drew criticism after publicly questioning his squad’s motivation.
“I learnt a hell of a lot from my mistakes in 2007. I can’t hide from the fact of that. But I know that I’m a completely different person today, 10 years on,” the former Socceroos striker told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
“I’ve learnt so much in the last 10 years and I’ve had such good mentors so if I have any issues I can speak to those types of people, and at the same time you never stop learning.”
Replaced as head coach by another Dutchman in Pim Verbeek in 2007, Arnold remained on board as an assistant through Australia’s next World Cup qualification phase and their appearance at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
Arnold, who scored 19 goals in 56 appearances for the Socceroos in the 1980s and 90s, then kicked off a hugely successful coaching career at club level, turning the underdog Central Coast Mariners into A-League champions in 2012-13.
He became the league’s first coach to claim championships at different clubs when he led Sydney to their third title last year after winning a record number of games during the regular season.
Arnold, who was heavily backed to eventually replace Postecoglou, will hope to deliver the league-leading Sky Blues another championship before signing off in May.
“It feels like I have never left (the Socceroos),” he said.
“I know what the job is about, I know it’s not an easy job, a tough job... but I feel I’m definitely ready for the job.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury/John O'Brien