Soccer-It's war! Australia promise Argentina a battle in last 16


Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Australia Press Conference - Main Media Center, Doha, Qatar - December 2, 2022 Australia coach Graham Arnold during the press conference REUTERS/Gareth Bumstead

DOHA (Reuters) - Australia coach Graham Arnold has promised Argentina a war on Saturday when the Socceroos look to spring an upset for the ages in the last 16 of the World Cup.

With a blend of team spirit and dogged determination, Arnold's unheralded underdogs have already notched up victories over Tunisia and Denmark in Qatar to reach the knockout stages for only the second time.

Arnold said they were not finished yet and would be in Argentina's faces for 90 minutes to try and give the South Americans as little time on the ball as possible.

"No disrespect to Argentina or anything at all, but it's 11 v 11, and it's 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts, and it's a battle," he told a news conference on Friday.

"It's a war, and we've got to fight that and make sure that the boys are in great physical shape, great mental shape, they've got great energy, and we go out there and give it all guns blazing."

Arnold, who as a player in 1993 came out on the wrong end of a two-legged World Cup playoff against an Argentina side featuring Maradona, said playing the twice champions was a big plus in terms of motivation.

"You're going to see the best of every player on the pitch for Australia tomorrow night because of who we're playing against," he added.

"The brains need to be switched on and ... be switched on for every second ... because they play in two waves. Slow to try to make you relax, but when you relax, that's when they hit you."

Harry Souttar, who has been outstanding in Australia's last two games, reflected his coach's confidence but conceded that shutting down Leo Messi would be a tall order.

"We know it's going to be a difficult task," said the Scottish-born centre back.

"Obviously, we respect the player massively. But I don't think it's just an individual thing. It's going to be a team effort, our team collective, I don't think it can come down to just one individual trying to stop him."

Having stunned the world with their success in Qatar, the Socceroos will take their country into the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time if they can upset Argentina.

"Australia are the underdogs and we love that," Arnold said. "We love the backs to the wall, and no one giving us a chance, and going out there and fighting the odds, the Aussie spirit way. That's our strength."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Ken Ferris)

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