It’s Verbeek versus Arnold in reunion of Socceroos coaches


Graham Arnold is set to pit his wits against his former Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek in Australia’s final warm-up match heading into January's defence of the AFC Asian Cup.

Negotiations are at an advanced stage for a duel between Oman, now led by 62-year-old ex-Australia coach Verbeek, and Arnold’s Socceroos, at a yet-be-decided Middle East venue.

The match is likely to take place early in the New Year, just days out from the defending champions’ opening Group B clash against Jordan in the United Arab Emirates’ city of Al Ain.

Arnold was assistant coach to the Dutchman for two years, the pair last working together at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where Verbeek‘s oft-maligned reign was ended as Australia bowed out at the group stage on goal difference after a 4-0 loss to Germany, a 1–1 draw with Ghana and 2-1 win over Serbia.

The pair went their separate ways after the tournament - Verbeek to Morocco to become technical director and Olympic team coach, and Arnold to begin his A-League career with Central Coast Mariners.

Their tactical approaches have also diverged with Verbeek sticking true to his cautious and conservative nature in qualifying Oman for the Asian Cup, whilst Arnold - in his first two games back in charge of the national team - has illuminated the canvas with bold attacking brushstrokes.

Verbeek, who had a previous stint in charge of Korea Republic, took the reins at Oman in 2016 and claimed the first silverware of his international coaching career 10 months ago, when Oman lifted the Gulf Cup after defeating UAE in a penalty shootout in Kuwait.

Verbeek will view the looming clash against his former employers as a chance to fine-tune his own Asian Cup preparations, and perhaps provide some payback to those who demonised him for his perceived dour and pragmatic Socceroos rule.

Oman have been drawn in Group F for the Asian Cup alongside Japan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

They have played Australia eight times since 2007, when Arnold was at the helm as Oman held the Socceroos to a 1-1 draw at the Asian Cup in Thailand.

In the seven games since, Australia have won four, drawn two and lost one - a World Cup qualifier in Muscat in 2011.