Socceroos to face New Zealand in two friendly matches
Australia’s two-match series against New Zealand in September is set to serve as a World Cup selection trial, with Socceroos coach Graham Arnold likely to field entirely different starting teams in both games.
But where star playmaker Tom Rogic fits in the equation remains unknown following his withdrawal from last month’s World Cup playoffs.
As revealed by News Corp Australia, the Socceroos will meet New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on September 22 in their farewell to Australian fans for the November 21-December 18 World Cup in Qatar.
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The second match of the series – which also celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Socceroos – will be played at Auckland’s Eden Park on September 25.
With the Socceroos having no other matches before Qatar 2022, the series will be the final chance for players to push their cause for World Cup selection.
“With the short turnaround between games, I’ll probably nearly use two different teams, and that gives everyone a good chance then to show me what they’ve got and whether they are ready to go,” Arnold said in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“That’s the fairest way to do it. We’ve got a good extended squad now of 30 to 35 players fighting to get into a 26-man World Cup squad.
“The best way to give them a fair chance is to play two different teams against New Zealand, which gives players the opportunity to showcase what they’ve got before we select the squad and to create more depth.”
Arnold admitted he was worried about former Celtic midfielder Rogic, who cited personal reasons for pulling out of the World Cup playoffs.
“I haven’t read anything, I haven’t seen anything … I texted him and didn’t get a reply,” the Socceroos coach said.
“I am concerned about Tommy but I know the PFA are looking into it.”
The Socceroos’ match in Brisbane will be their first at Suncorp Stadium since November 17, 2018, when they drew 1-1 with South Korea in just Arnold’s second match in charge of the team following the departure of Dutchman Bert van Marwijk after that year’s World Cup in Russia.
“The fans feel like they’re on the field, and the players feel like the fans are on top of them,” Arnold said in describing the special Suncorp Stadium atmosphere.
“For the opposition it makes it daunting. When it’s a full house, it makes it like a 12th man, and that’s what we need against New Zealand.”
Football Australia chief executive and proud Queenslander James Johnson was delighted about the Socceroos returning to Suncorp Stadium.
“On a personal level I’m very happy to have the Socceroos back (in Brisbane) – this is also where I’m from,” Johnson said.
“Playing in a rectangular stadium, that’s specific to football really makes a difference in terms of atmosphere.”