Socceroos youngster Daniel Arzani at the team training camp in Antalya, Turkey.
Socceroos youngster Daniel Arzani at the team training camp in Antalya, Turkey.

Arzani deserves chance to justify the hype

SOMEHOW it's entirely appropriate that it is two pieces of social media which have sent tongues wagging about Daniel Arzani, inside the Socceroos camp and out.

Supremely talented, and just as supremely self-assured, the 19-year-old Arzani certainly knows how to make a splash. For many, his close control, light-footed dribbling and pace make him the most thrilling prospect in green and gold for years.

But in the unforgiving environment of a national squad battling to be chosen for the World Cup, reputations are earned the old-fashioned way. Potential means nothing if it doesn't turn consistently into productivity.

The eyebrows raised by Arzani's claim on Twitter recently that he wanted to nutmeg Paul Pogba when Australia plays France at the World Cup - and the fact it would be "easy" - included several of his new international teammates. Talk is cheap, after all.

The fact that message came via the Socceroos official Twitter feed just seemed to amplify its effect.

Then video of Arzani's mazy dribble through the Australian defence early in the camp in Turkey was widely shared on social media, evidence for many of why Arzani has to be in the final squad heading to Russia.

As several old hands noted, though, that one dribble came from several hours of footage from van Marwijk's intensive tutorials as he prepares the Australians to take on France.

 

 

Socceroos youngster Daniel Arzani at the team training camp in Antalya, Turkey.
Socceroos youngster Daniel Arzani at the team training camp in Antalya, Turkey.

 

 

So far, in Arzani's defence, he hasn't had much opportunity to make the right kind of impact. The first week of the camp in Turkey has focused on defensive structure, with every player - including brilliant young wingers - given specific roles.

Not even Arzani's most ardent admirers would claim that tracking back and zonal discipline are remotely his forte. But isn't that rather beside the point?

The chances of Arzani starting against France are distant. Every part of van Marwijk's preparation so far has been about negating the French individual brilliance, and his selection will reflect that.

But in that game, or the next against Denmark, if the result is in the balance, then Arzani may well have a role to play, with a brief to run against a tiring defence.

That's the point at which his self-confidence should translate into a lack of fear. Plenty of players have frozen on the biggest stage, but you sense he wouldn't.

But that's also the point at which he would have to justify the hype. Michael Owen came into the 1998 World Cup on the back of several goals for Liverpool at the tail-end of the season, amid similar demands for him to play.

In England's second game against Romania he came on as a late substitute and scored within nine minutes. Two games later he scored one of the goals of the tournament against Argentina.

No one is suggesting Arzani has to have that level of impact. But already the prospect of his introduction off the bench, especially in a tight game, would send waves of anticipation through Australian supporters.

When could we last say that?



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