Asian champions Australia will treat the international friendly match against Kuwait as the start of their defence of the 2015 title.
The Socceroos and Kuwaitis will meet in Kuwait City on Tuesday morning (AEDT) in the first match of coach Graham Arnold’s tenure.
There is very little riding on the 12th clash between the two countries but the match should provide us with a clear indication of what kind of team will defend the continental title in the United Arab Emirates in January.
The Socceroos won their first ever major honour when Mile Jedinak and his cohorts defeated Korea Republic 2-1 after extra-time in a stirring AFC Asian Cup final in Sydney.
In the 24-team tournament in the UAE, they will face Jordan (Al Ain), Palestine (Dubai) and Syria (Al Ain) in Group B.
Before that the Socceroos will entertain Korea Republic in Brisbane on November 17 and Lebanon in Sydney three days later in the final dress rehearsals for the big event.
At this stage the Kuwait match is seen as the platform from which Arnold’s chosen men will launch their bid to conquer Asia once again.
Arnold has picked an interesting combination of youth and experience.
The former Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC boss who in a short time established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the history of the A-League has shown over the years that he is never afraid to give young players a sporting chance to break through the ranks.
“You will never know what the kids can do on the big stage unless you give them a chance,” Arnold has said a few times.
True to form, he picked Melbourne Victory defender Thomas Deng (21), PEC Zwolle midfielder Denis Genreau (19) and Midtjylland striker Awer Mabil (23) along with Celtic striker Daniel Arzani (19) in a 24-member squad for the match in Kuwait that comprises most of the players who were at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
None of these uncapped players except Arzani were considered by previous coach Bert van Marwijk for the campaign in Russia so they must welcome the winds of change that have swept the Socceroos set-up.
They are not expected to start and might not even play at the Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium. In all probability they have been included so they can get a feel of the national set-up under a new regime and feel part of the family.
Then again Arnold might spring a surprise by throwing them in at the deep end.
Yet regardless of whether they play or not their selection is indicative of Arnold’s serious intent to give any player a chance to wear the green and gold and not be influenced by a candidate’s age, stature or club he plays for.
It also remains to be seen what style of play the Socceroos will employ in Kuwait and beyond.
Too much was made of Ange Postecoglou’s formation during the rocky qualification campaign for Russia.
Three or four at the back became the focal point of a heated debate surrounding Postecoglou’s tactics but I dare say the main problem with the Socceroos was their inability to track back in time when the ball was lost in the front third.
Hence their vulnerability to the counter-attack in several matches leading up to Russia, a problem van Marwijk fixed by adopting a more prudent approach.
Arnold has already hinted that he is inclined to go with four at the back but what happens further up the field is anybody’s guess at this stage.
Will he flood the midfield in a bid to gain supremacy in a vital area or put more emphasis on attack, which is the side’s Achilles heel and which he has vowed to fix?
In other words, will the team’s playing style be somewhere between van Marwijk’s pragmatic policy and Postecoglou’s attacking mantra?
The Kuwait match should provide us with a better idea of what to expect from the next Socceroos.