DOHA : Australia made the right move to leave the Oceania confederation and join the Asian confederation (AFC) in 2006 as the level of competition in the continent has helped the Socceroos improve as a team, coach Graham Arnold said on Wednesday.
Australia had been with the Oceania Football Confederation for nearly four decades but made the switch in 2006 and played their first Asian Cup in 2007.
They have since won the competition as hosts in 2015 while they were runners-up in the 2011 edition, which was also held in Qatar.
“Yes, look, I didn’t make the decision to come into Asia from Oceania. But I really think it’s improved us as a nation in football because the competition, the teams we’re playing against is much harder,” Arnold told reporters.
“Australians are football fanatics and they’re seeing that Asian football is growing enormously and quickly. You can see in this tournament, the quality of the teams there is getting better and better.
“So the Australian community is right behind the Socceroos and Australian football being in Asia.”
When it was suggested it gave Australia an easier path to the World Cup with only one team from Oceania qualifying for the inter-confederation playoffs, he added: “I don’t make those rules but New Zealand might not be happy if we go back.”
Australia are top of Group B after beating India in their opening match and they next play Syria on Thursday, with Graham saying they needed to improve in certain areas despite the victory.
“I think that we did very well against India, but probably (need to improve) just the last pass or the last finish,” he said.
“I think our set pieces were not great against India. We had a lot of corners and that is probably one of our strengths and we just need to improve on those little things.”
Arnold said they had watched Syria’s previous games and done their homework.
“We know everything about the Syrian players, we’ve done our homework. We expect a physical game and we’ll be ready for it,” he added.
“We’re excited to get back on the field and play against Syria, but the focus is on ourselves.
“We were happy with our performance against India, but my expectations are that we will improve every game that we play. So tomorrow it’s about playing better than what we did against India.”