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James Johnson CEO Football Australia (right) and Graham Arnold attend a press conference in Sydney announcing Arnold's decision to remain in charge of the team. Image Credit: AFP

Sydney: Australia coach Graham Arnold announced that he would be staying on in the job until the end of the 2026 World Cup finals on Monday, saying he thought the success of last year’s Qatar campaign was only the start for the Socceroos.

Arnold led Australia to the last 16 at the World Cup for only the second time with an unprecedented two victories in Qatar before a narrow 2-1 loss to eventual champions Argentina ended their campaign.

Feted back home only months after being pilloried during Australia’s stuttering qualifying campaign, Arnold had been given time to consider his future in the role he took up after the 2018 World Cup.

'Bleed green and gold'

“I just love them, every time I put that Socceroos shirt on, or I’m around the Socceroos, I just bleed green and gold,” he told a news conference in Sydney.

“It’s been a tough road at times, but I have so much belief in the group of players and the great staff that I’ve got that you know, this is just a start.

“Qatar was a fantastic achievement, but there’s plenty more to come and I truly believe that.” Arnold, a former Socceroos striker who won two A-League titles as a club manager, said he had spurned interest from European sides and Middle Eastern national teams to remain in charge for another four years.

“At the end of the day, I want to help Australia,” he said. “Probably what inspired me the most was seeing those fan sites (during the World Cup). Seeing how the Socceroos reunited the nation and seeing how many people love Australian football.” His first task will be to prepare Australia for the Asian Cup back in Qatar early next year. The Socceroos won the continental title on home soil in 2015 but under Arnold were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2019 edition.

“The first step is going to the Asian Cup to be successful and win it,” he said.

“Secondly is direct qualification for the World Cup because I really don’t want to go through (playoffs) again. And thirdly, to achieve more than what we did at the World Cup.” Arnold, who gave stark warnings during the World Cup campaign that the grassroots of the Australian game needed serious attention, will also have a role in mentoring the national age-group teams and identifying young talent.

“The Socceroos don’t just happen out of the blue,” he said.

Strong bond

“The ingredients need to be there. And the preparation and planning needs to be perfect.” Arnold was widely credited with building a strong bond within a squad that had arrived in Qatar with very low expectations but beat Tunisia and Denmark to secure two wins in one World Cup tournament for the first time.

“Under Graham’s guidance, the Socceroos created Australian football history ... uniting the nation like never before,” said FA chief executive James Johnson.

“We are thrilled that he has committed to Football Australia to help us continue to bring our vision for the game to life.”