Winning Asian Cup is Socceroos’ only option

Nothing less than Asian Cup glory will satisfy Socceroos coach Graham Arnold and his confident team.

The Socceroos won the tournament in 2015 on home soil under Ange Postecoglou, but four years later, under the guidance of Arnold, were knocked out in the quarter-finals by hosts, the United Arab Emirates.

However, since then Arnold has built a strong squad and improved Australia’s depth of talent.

It led to the Socceroos reaching the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where they were beaten by eventual champions.

That effort has led to growing expectations of Arnold’s men at continental level.

And now back in Qatar – their “home away from home” after playing of host of World Cup qualifiers there when Covid-19 caused travel restrictions and quarantine periods – the Socceroos are ready to embrace the pressure by lifting the Asian Cup.

“There’s only one thing to look at and one thing to believe in and achieve, and that is to win it,” Arnold said.

“That’s the messaging to the players and the staff. We’ve come here for a reason, and that reason is to come here and win this Asian Cup.

“You’ve got to reach for the stars, and have high expectations, and we do that right from the start.”

Socceroos striker Mitch Duke echoed Arnold’s sentiments.

“The belief is high,” Duke said.

“If there’s someone here that doesn’t believe we can win it, then they shouldn’t be here.

“We have the players that can do the job. We can go all that way and win it.”

The Socceroos’ Group B campaign was to start late on Saturday night against India (AEDT), before continuing with games against Syria (Thursday) and Uzbekistan (Tuesday week).

“We have a lot of experience in Qatar. We have a good feeling here,” Duke said.

“A lot of the boys that have been involved throughout the last few years and experienced it here, they feel comfortable, they feel relaxed and happy playing here.

“It’s essentially a home away from home for us. We’ll use that advantage for us at 100 per cent (level), and we’ll create more memories from this tournament here.”

Duke, who turns 33 on Thursday, said he was still learning as a player, and was confident ihis quality would improve this year with a return to the Japanese top-flight after his club team Machida Zelvia gained promotion.

“You’re never too old to improve and to get better, and for me, being back in the J1 League is only going to help me individually and staying in the national team set-up,” he said.

“Helping the national team moving forward is a plan for me as well.”

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