Graham Arnold’s “crazy thought” has been manifested into a serious boost to the Socceroos’ morale after Guus Hiddink’s arrival in camp for their World Cup farewell clash in Brisbane.
The former coach will ride the bench as Arnold’s assistant on Thursday against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium in a role reversal of Australia’s famous journey to the round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup.
“I got a call from Arnie. It wasn’t a question. He said, ‘I want you to come,'” the now-retired Dutch favourite told reporters on Wednesday. “Without any doubts for a second I said, ‘I’m coming.’
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It will be Australia’s last game on home soil — and incredibly first against the All Whites since 2011 — before November’s showpiece in Qatar.
They will also play New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday, Arnold admitting “10 or 11” of the 31-man squad in Brisbane won’t make the trip across the ditch.
The old friends traded stories and cracked jokes in a 30-minute press conference on Wednesday, Arnold keen to have some of the Socceroos’ golden generation rub off on his fresh-faced squad.
“I just had this crazy thought one night to bring back a guy that’s mentored me and helped me so much in my life and my career,” Arnold said.
“We need the best [players] and I know with Guus’ eye on talent and the way he speaks to players, in this camp he can be a real bonus.
“At breakfast [when he arrived on Wednesday], the look on their faces straight away said enough.
“The method of the madness was … those guys were five or six in 2006 and his players were idolised.
“But this is the last part of the banter; when we go back to the hotel it’s business, we have a game to play and they don’t see it as a party. Guus will drive some strong messages.”
Hiddink, who also took South Korea to the 2002 World Cup semifinals, urged the side to “play football in an attacking way” in Cup games against France, Tunisia and Denmark, as long as they’re defensively well-organised.
He also admitted Arnold was disadvantaged by the lack of time he will have with the squad to develop fitness and chemistry before their World Cup opener, particularly given the A-League season is yet to begin.
“He’s depending a bit on how they practice in their clubs, but they seem to be fit and fresh,” Hiddink said.
“But Australians are always fresh in their mind; they fight, they fight.
“I’m asked many times … what was some highlights in your career? Everyone wants to push me a bit to Chelsea or [Real] Madrid or PSV … but people, you forget one. My experience with this country, with this team with the staff, was one of my highlights. And that’s why I’m very happy to be back.”
With Arnold providing some detail, “Aussie Guus” recalled the moment he almost substituted Mark Schwarzer for Zeljko Kalac ahead of the 2005 penalty shootout against Uruguay that sealed Australia’s World Cup return after 32 years.
Arnold quipped that “he taught me how to do it, but he wouldn’t do it and I did it” after Andrew Redmayne was successfully brought on in their shootout defeat of Peru.
“He had the guts to do it,” Hiddink said, offering his former understudy a “chapeau” for his qualification efforts.
“You have to work for that [good times]. You tell some good stories from the past, but there’s always a relation to the present and that’s why I think I can help for the few days I’m here.”