Socceroos lock in controversial rematch against world champs Argentina in Beijing – after South Americans’ coach admitted Aussies were their toughest challenge at the World Cup
- Coach Arnold wants matches against the best nations
- Beijing game upsetting Australian Uyghur community
- Argentina appearance fee worth over $7million
The Socceroos will face world champions Argentina in Beijing on June 15 in crucial preparation for their Asian Cup tilt and World Cup qualifying.
The long-rumoured friendly clash at the newly-renovated Workers’ Stadium is to go ahead, just over six months after Argentina beat Australia 2-1 in the World Cup round of 16 in Qatar, Football Australia confirmed on Monday.
‘To secure a match against the world champions Argentina reflects Australia’s standing within world football and the respect that the top nations have for both our senior national teams,’ FA chief executive James Johnson said in a statement.
The Socceroos also have a hotly-anticipated friendly match against England at Wembley Stadium in October.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina are the world No.1 in the latest FIFA rankings, with Australia sitting 29th.
The world’s best player Lionel Messi of Argentina (with ball) runs past Socceroo Mitchell Duke during the teams’ clash at the World Cup in Qatar
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold had been desperate to get the Argentina clash, citing the importance of facing top opposition ahead of a new World Cup cycle.
‘It’d be amazing. I just get goosebumps now thinking about it,’ Arnold told reporters earlier this month.
‘If this game comes off, it’d just be fantastic to play against the world champions at the moment.
‘There’s no better way to test players than put them out against top opposition, because if you put them out against the lower opposition, well, then you’re not learning too much about the players.
Not everyone in Australia is happy about the prospect the Socceroos playing Argentina in China next month (pictured, the world champions celebrate their opening goal in Qatar)
Craig Goodwin (pictured) forced an Argentina own goal in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, with the Socceroos winning plenty of respect for taking the champions to the wire
‘So I want these tough games. I want to play against teams that are going to push us to the limit and we’ll push them to the limit.
‘Those type of games are crucial to our preparation and making us get better.’
Earlier this month the Australian-based Uyghur community voiced their opposition to staging the game in China.
Alim Osman, the president of the Uyghur Association of Victoria, said sending the Socceroos to play an exhibition match with Argentina in Beijing ‘is another slap on the face to Uyghur Australians’.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold (pictured in black in Qatar last year) revealed his Argentina counterpart told him Australia gave Lionel Messi and co. their hardest game of the tournament
‘We strongly believe that doing business as usual with China is aiding the crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs,’ Osman said.
Argentina ended Australia’s golden World Cup run in Qatar via goals to Messi and Julian Alvarez, though Craig Goodwin forced a late Enzo Fernandez own goal to send the clash down to the wire.
Arnold said Argentina counterpart Lionel Scaloni had told him at a recent FIFA coaches’ conference the Socceroos proved their hardest game at the World Cup.
The match, which kicks off at 8pm local time (10pm AEST) will be the Socceroos’ first since a pair of home friendlies against Ecuador in March.