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Socceroos ready for WC play-off: Arnold

Bullish Socceroos coach Graham Arnold believes Australia are mentally and physically ready to reignite their ailing World Cup qualifying campaign.

After missing out on an automatic spot for this year’s World Cup in Qatar following a run of just one win from their past seven qualifiers the Socceroos face the United Arab Emirates in an Asian play-off in Doha on Tuesday (Weds 0400 AEST).

Arnold believes a settled build-up, in stark contrast to their disastrous camp in March before back-to-back defeats to Japan and Saudi Arabia, has his team in as good a state as possible for the must-win fixture.

“The past games we’ve had a lot of players that have missed games because of COVID and international travel, but now all those type of things have been removed and we’re not looking at anything behind us,” Arnold said.

“Everything’s in front of us, and that’s from the first game, and that’s tomorrow night.

“So physically, we’re in great shape. Mentally, the boys are in great spirits.

“I believe with that mental Aussie strength that we will come through.”

A victory over the UAE at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium would send Australia into an intercontinental play-off against Peru on June 13 (June 14 AEST).

With Tom Rogic absent due to personal reasons, a lot of the onus will fall on former English Premier League player Aaron Mooy to spark Australia.

The 31-year-old, who hasn’t played a minute of club football since January, is set to start, having proven his fitness with an hour-long display in a 2-1 friendly win over Jordan last week.

“That was a perfect hit-out for us against Jordan,” Arnold said.

“Pretty much the whole purpose of playing that game was for Aaron Mooy to get fit and get ready because we know how important Aaron is to the team.

“He pulled up very well from the game. He played probably longer than what I expected him to play and when we took him off after 60 minutes, he said that he still felt that he had a lot more minutes left in him.”

Melbourne Victory fullback Jason Davidson trained separately from the main group in Monday’s final training session at the 40,000-seater venue, which is expected to be about half-full.

UAE fans are expected to vastly outnumber Australian supporters in the crowd, but Arnold says his team’s record in the Middle East during their qualifying campaign gives him confidence.

“Since I’ve taken over four years ago, probably out of 18 qualifiers we played 14 in the Middle East and we’re very comfortable here,” he said.

“Of course, there’s going to be more fans from the UAE but I think that will help us as well.

“We’ve played here before and we will feel comfortable and I think the neutral fans will also be supporting us.”

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