Graham Arnold lends support for Australian Women's World Cup team
MONTPELLIER, France -- Graham Arnold arrived in France to support the women throughout the remainder of the group stage. The Australian men's coach attended practice Tuesday and said Socceroos captain Mark Milligan and his two daughters will join him in the stands for Thursday night's game (6 p.m. local) against Brazil.
Despite a shocking 2-1 loss to Italy in their World Cup opening match two days earlier, his assessment of the Matildas thus far in France was optimistic. "I thought they played very well," Arnold said. "It's just a couple of big moments and I expect tomorrow night, they'll have a great game against Brazil. When you lose, you learn, and I'm sure Ante and the girls learned a lot. I was there yesterday at training and if I had a training session like that, two days before the game, I'd be delighted."
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"Six weeks ago, FFA asked me if I would be into coming over and I said 100 percent," Arnold said. "We're a soccer family. The Matildas and Socceroos -- we are linked as one. The boys are extremely proud of them. It's a privilege to be here and support the girls."
Arnold arrived in France just four days after his squad suffered a 1-0 defeat by South Korea in a friendly in Busan. Arnold remains encouraged for his squad, as well.
"I feel better than I've ever felt in this job because I do believe I've got 40 players that can step up," Arnold said. "Their performance against South Korea was fantastic. The biggest problem for me now is fitting that 40 into 23 for the World Cup."
As for the women, Arnold stopped short of offering advice to his former assistant.
"Let's be realistic. Ante [Milicic] has been to two World Cups. He knows what it takes to win," Arnold said. "I don't coach the girls. I'm here to support the girls. It'd be wrong for me to tell Ante what to do. I'm sure I wouldn't be happy if he were trying to tell me what to do."
Arnold said he did not address the Matildas as a group, but spoke after practice with team captain Sam Kerr and midfielder Emily van Egmond, who both "feel that they performed well, but know they can nail a few more details," Arnold said.
When asked if he felt the resurgent chatter about the sacking of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic was seeping into training, Arnold said it was a non-issue. "It's not there. It's past history," he said. "Staj did a great job while he was here, but we've moved on. Everyone wants to talk about it, but it's just noise. Let the girls focus on winning."
Arnold was also pressed to address the Matildas' recent campaign to pressure FIFA to bridge the World Cup gender pay gap, but the Socceroos coach stopped short of offering his support.
"It's something for the organization and [Professional Footballers Australia], but equal rights is there," Arnold said. "The girls work extremely hard and the women's game has come a hell of a long way in the last couple of years. You look around the world and how professional the women's game's become, and in Australia it's no different. But I'm just here to support the girls. Those type of things are not for me to decide. It's for the right people to make those right decisions."