Graham Arnold will be given the chance to become the first coach to lead the Socceroos into two FIFA World Cups after signing an extension to lead Australia’s men to the end of the 2026 cycle.
The extension, announced by Football Australia on Monday, represents a remarkable turnaround for Arnold, who last March appeared on the brink of being sacked after the Socceroos were condemned to qualifying for the World Cup via the playoffs after a defeat to Japan.
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However, granted a reprieve and subsequently steering Australian past the UAE and Peru to secure qualification, he was in the dugout as the Socceroos created history at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the side bouncing back from a heavy opening defeat to France to record back-to-back wins over Tunisia and Denmark to book a place in the round of 16.
There, they pushed eventual champions Argentina to the brink of extra time; Emiliano Martínez producing a last-gasp save to deny Garang Kuol and ensure La Albiceleste progressed.
It was the first time since 2006 that the Socceroos had advanced to the knockout stages, and the group one-upped that Golden Generation by becoming the first Australian men’s team to win two games at the tournament.
In the aftermath of that performance, it also made Football Australia’s move to offer Arnold a new contract a fait accompli, the only question was if he would accept the call to return or instead head back to club coaching after reported interest from Scottish, English, American, and Asian outfits.
Ultimately, however, those overtures were spurned in favour of a return to the Green and Gold.
“I love Australia and I love Australian football, and nothing in football can ever match the elation, pride and sense of achievement, I and the entire set-up felt in Qatar,” Arnold said.
“The hunger to continue in the role has never been stronger and I know I have more to give to the Socceroos’ program and Australian football, where I want to deliver more smiles for our fans as we did in Qatar.
“I approach the next four years with a clean sheet, which is underpinned by a burning ambition to provide more opportunities to our leading emerging and established talent, whilst challenging for major titles starting with the Asian Cup in Qatar next year.”
In addition to securing another four years at the helm of the Socceroos, Arnold will take on a new mentorship role for Australia’s junior men’s national team’s coaches, as well as assist chief football officer Ernie Merrick on pathways development and talent identification.
He will also serve as ambassador for the national federation in their lobbying efforts to secure further investment in footballing facilities at a community and elite level.
“I’m hugely passionate about our pathways and ensuring we are not only producing more elite talent through a connected pyramid, but making sure those footballers are getting the right opportunities to fulfil their dreams, whether it’s here in Australia or overseas,” Arnold said.
“I will be hands on with our men’s national youth team head coaches to support their own development and further strengthen our national team football philosophy.
“In addition to success on the field over the next four years, I want to help deliver results for football in the form of bespoke infrastructure for our game across Australia.”
Football Australia CEO James Johnson said that Arnold’s return completed the organisation’s cohort of home grown men’s coaches with former Socceroo Tony Vidmar leading the U23s, Trevor Morgan the U20s and Brad Maloney the U17s.
“Under Graham’s guidance, the Socceroos created Australian football history with their performance at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, uniting the nation like never before,” Johnson said.
“Under Graham’s tenure, the Socceroos were able to deliver world class performances and nurture the next generation of players. He cares deeply about Australian football, and we are thrilled that he has committed to Football Australia to help us continue to bring our vision for the game to life.
“We now have a stable of homegrown head coaches leading our men’s national teams, overseeing a growing pool of exciting footballers, and we have high hopes for the future of Australian football on the global stage.”