Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Socceroos coach happy with squad

AFP , LONDON

Graham Arnold reckons that his Australia team has enough emerging talent to emulate the country's successful World Cup squad.

Socceroos coach Arnold is already planning for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa because he is convinced the core of the current team can blend with an infusion of new blood to produce a formidable mix.

After watching a young Australian outfit dominate their 1-1 friendly international draw against Ghana at Loftus Road in London on Tuesday, Arnold was full of confidence for the future.

Australia were without established stars like Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill through injury, as well as newly retired veterans Tony Popovic, Danny Tiatto, Stan Lazaridis and Tony Vidmar.

But they gave as good as they got against a Ghana side 13 places above them in the FIFA world rankings.

"We are in a transition period so I am over the moon with the performance against Ghana," Arnold said.

"We were controlling it completely until Vince Grella went off injured. He is a huge player for us in the system we play so that made a big difference. But I introduced four or five new young players into the squad and they all look like they can play at this level," he said.

"They're proved to Australia that they can step up and now we need to fast-track them so they are ready for the 2010 World Cup," Arnold said.

Arnold knows Australia have a great chance to build on their success in reaching the second round at this year's World Cup in Germany, where they were only eliminated by eventual champions Italy, if he can get the right blend.

He has persuaded several senior pros like Craig Moore and John Aloisi to continue at international level because he knows how vital experience is at the highest level.

But he hopes to also develop Patrick Kisnorbo, Shane Stefanutto, Casey Wehrman, Michael Beauchamp and Michael Thwaite into top-class talents.

"I managed to convince six players over 30 not to retire until after the Asian Cup because we want them to help introduce the young guys into the team," Arnold added.

"The core of the team is 26 or 27 so they will all be really ripe by the time the next World Cup comes round. The likes of Emerton, Cahill, Neill, Bresciano and Sterjovski are all going to be at the top of their games then," he said.

"If I have my way John Aloisi will still be involved to come off the bench at least and I want Craig Moore to keep going until 2010 as well so we just need to find a few youngsters to fit in around them," Arnold said.

"It took us 32 years to get to the World Cup and I want us to be there again in 2010. The game is flourishing at home because of our achievements in the 2006 tournament and, if I have anything to do with it, that will still be the case in four years time," he said.

John Aloisi put Australia ahead from the penalty spot after he had been hacked down by Francis Dickoh in the first half.

Australia had plenty of chances to increase their lead but were denied by a superb display from Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

The Africans got a late equalizer through Junior Agogo after Kisnorbo and Mark Schwarzer collided to present the striker with a simple tap-in.

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