“Wait until next year” has been a rallying cry for sports fans of losing teams for much of history.
For World Cup soccer sides, it would be, “Wait until four years from now,” which somehow lacks the promise of the first phrase Bonus Bets.
Yet, this is exactly the position Australia now finds itself, as the Socceroos have a little extra time, along with the other 16 who failed to advance to the knockout stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals.
What will the Socceroos look like in 2022?
Hard to say, other than the certainty that it will not be the same 23 who ultimately made it to Russia for the three matches Australia managed to get.
Bert van Marwijk will be gone. Graham Arnold will head the national team, but given the difficult slog Australia had to survive in international play just to earn the invitation to Russia, there is no such thing as an absolute guarantee that Australia will earn a spot in Qatar, site of the next World Cup tournament.
Next year’s Asian Cup is where it all begins, so it is not as though Arnold has between now and 2022 to get all the pieces in place.
Maty Ryan, provided he can remain healthy and productive, seems to be the closest thing to a lock for Australia as the goalkeeper.
Daniel Arzani will be 23 entering the Qatar tournament, in his prime, but wingers can see careers ruined with one bad tackle. He is the target of some of the world’s most prestigious clubs, but four years in an eternity when club play and rep duties are figured into the equation.
Many A-League players will get some seasoning at home and abroad, but predicting the makeup of the squad four years out is like trying to herd cats, as four years in the life of a football player is like 20 years in the lives of us everyday people, yet predicting is exactly the task Arnold faces in the coming months and years.