Argentina are reportedly being lined up to play Australia in China next month
Sydney (AFP) - Australia coach Graham Arnold has said he has “goosebumps” about potentially facing world champions Argentina in China next month in a re-match of their Qatar World Cup round of 16 clash.
The game has not been officially confirmed, but reports in Australia this week said negotiations were underway to make the friendly happen at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
“It’d be amazing. I just get goosebumps now thinking about it. If this game comes off, it’d just be fantastic to play against the world champions at the moment,” Arnold said on the official site of the domestic A-Leagues late Friday.
“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.
“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.”
The incentive for Argentina to play in China was financial, the reports said, while for Australia it was about shoring up business and diplomatic interests with its largest trading partner after years of troubled ties.
Football Australia chief James Johnson told The Australian newspaper that if a contract was confirmed he expected Australian government officials and business executives would be keen to attend the match.
“If there’s an opportunity through football, which like government operates both locally and internationally, to improve relations with China and to open up opportunities to communicate then naturally that’s something that is of interest to us,” he said.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina ended Australia’s run in Qatar with a 2-1 victory last year, on their way to claiming the title.
Arnold spoke with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni at a forum in Qatar this week, before the draw for the 2024 Asian Cup.
“He came over to me and just gave me a hug and said how much they appreciated the game against us,” he said.
“He felt we were the hardest game for them at the World Cup but also, he loved the way we played and the players’ attitude, the fight and the grit in our performance and he was very, very complimentary to us.”