Soccer-Australia coach Arnold appeals for home support for Saudi Arabia qualifier

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup - Asia Qualifiers - Group B - Australia v China - Khalifa Stadium, Doha, Qatar - September 2, 2021 Australia coach Graham Arnold REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari

(Reuters) – Australia coach Graham Arnold has called on the New South Wales government to let fans attend their 2022 World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Sydney next month.

The ‘Socceroos’ have had to play 11 of their 12 qualifiers outside the country with Australia shutting its borders to non-residents and imposing 14-day hotel quarantine on returning travellers as part of its strict COVID-19 measures.

Arnold said home support had helped Japan beat his side 2-1 in Tuesday’s qualifier in Saitama, which also ended Australia’s 11-match winning streak.

“I just really am reaching out to the NSW government and really appealing to them to help us on this journey on our World Cup pathway,” Arnold told Australian media on Wednesday.

“I haven’t been home for six months, but now that NSW have vaccinated 80% plus, we are still four weeks away from this game, (I really hope) that they help us by allowing fans into the stadium.

“We have seen (the difference it makes) in the United Kingdom and around the world where it is 80% vaccinated and everyone has got full crowds again.”

Australia last played at home two years ago when they cruised to a 5-0 win over Nepal in the second round of qualifying for the Qatar World Cup.

They are second in Group B on nine points, three behind leaders Saudi Arabia, who they play on Nov. 11.

Japan and Oman are three points further back.

Only the top two teams in each of Asia’s two qualifying groups advance automatically to the finals, with the third-placed teams going into a series of playoffs for another berth.

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