Graham Arnold has divided opinion since his appointment as head coach in 2018, but a Round of 16 berth in Qatar will change his legacy forever.
His struggles throughout qualifying for the 2022 World Cup have not been forgotten, but have certainly been muted during an impressive campaign that no one saw coming. Whilst Australia’s success at this World Cup is unlikely to change everyone’s minds, it certainly demands a review of his tenure.
Graham Arnold’s 2022 FIFA World Cup
A World Cup campaign that started like a fantasy has carried on in the same fashion.
The final score in Australia’s opener against France couldn’t seem less important. The lead that arrived in the ninth minute of that game lasted for only 18 minutes, but the goal will last forever.
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It was the firework that kickstarted a six-point escape from Group D, the best performance in a World Cup group in Australia’s history.
Arnie’s men out-wrestled Tunisia before sending Denmark home, a campaign that has built beautifully towards an enormous challenge in the shape of Lionel Messi and Argentina.
Graham Arnold’s mixed bag as Australia coach
You wouldn’t guess it from their performance at the finals, but Australia struggled their way through qualifying.
An infamous loss to Japan sent Arnold and his men to the treacherous and unforgiving playoffs. Against Peru, where the famed heroics of a dancing Andrew Redmayne booked a spot for the Socceroos in Qatar, they very likely saved Arnold’s job at the same time.
The decision to allow Arnold to continue in the role for both the qualifying campaign and the tournament proper has proven to be a good one.
Many had made their mind up coming into Qatar that he wasn’t the man to take the Socceroos to the next level, and perhaps he still hasn’t done that, but they’ll be glad they weren’t calling the shots given what he’s done so far in Qatar.
Is Graham Arnold Australia’s greatest ever coach?
Love him or loathe him, Arnold’s second stint is statistically the best of any full-time Australia head coach in history.
His win percentage since re-taking charge in 2018 is 67.6%, which beats that of all other Australia coaches.
The lack of a trophy in his Socceroos cabinet doesn’t help his argument, but two Asian cup quarterfinals and their equal-best run at a World Cup finals are hardly achievements to sneeze at.
?? Australia ?? Japan and ?? Korea Republic are heading to the knockout stage.
This is the first time in men’s #FIFAWorldCup history that three AFC teams are in the last 16.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 2, 2022
When you factor in the figures from his eight-game interim stint back in 2006-07, his numbers are lowered. He won just two games during his initial tenure despite leading the Socceroos to a quarter-final in their first ever Asian Cup.
Overall numbers, however, still point towards a very good career as Australia coach. And, with the distance of this World Cup run still to be seen, Arnold could make an even stronger argument for his place amongst Australia’s best.