Mabil defends Arnold amid mounting criticism

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As tensions rise ahead of March’s win-or-bust 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia, Australia star Awer Mabil has responded to Mark Bosnich over the Socceroos legend's call for coach Graham Arnold to be sacked if Australia fails to automatically reach Qatar 2022.

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The ex-Socceroos keeper turned pundit has been among Arnold’s most vocal critics amid the unraveling of Australia’s campaign over the past five Group B qualifiers, leaving maximum points from the visit of Jqpan to Stadium Australia on 24 March as the minimum requirement to avoid being cast into the lottery of the playoffs.

Newly loaned to Turkish Super Lig side Kasımpaşa SK by Danish Superliga leader Midtjylland, Mabil encouraged Bosnich to come into the Socceroos inner sanctum to experience the unity he says pervades, despite costly dropped points against Japan, group leader Saudi Arabia, China and Oman.

“I think the criticism from Mark Bosnich is unfair,” Mabil said. “Arnie is a great coach and you can see what he’s built in the past with the Socceroos and also the Olyroos. 

“People forget what he’s achieved … we broke the world record for consecutive wins with the Socceroos and nobody talks about that.

“Then all of a sudden when some results haven’t gone the way we wanted people try to take advantage and create headlines. 

“I really don’t agree with what Bosnich says.”

Mabil's strong response comes after Bosnich told radio program 1170 SEN Drive: “Right now, we’re in big trouble.  

"If we come third my belief, and I’ve said this before, is that we will not qualify. This comes down to the manager.

“I really do think that Football Australia have to have a serious think if we go into the playoffs - is Graham Arnold the right man to lead us into those games?”

Football Australia boss James Johnson recently insisted Arnold would not be axed while there is still a chance for Australia  to qualify.

“I remember Mark Bosnich saying similar things about Ange Postecoglou when we were struggling to qualify under him for the 2018 World Cup in Russia,” Mabil said. “I think we really we need to unite more in Australia.

“People can say what they want but Arnie has built something which is very special, and there’s nothing that’s going to break us.”

Arnold dismissed the criticism of his tactics and managerial style as “noise”, with Mabil adamant he has “100 per cent support” from his players.

“I’d like to invite Mark into our camp and then he’ll see what a special environment we have,” he said. “There are many things we are going to accomplish and nothing is going stop us.”

Left out of the last camp against Vietnam and Oman due to inactivity at club level amid his reluctance to agree to a new contract, the Turkey switch offers Mabil an immediate route back into Arnold’s plans.

“I want to be in the best shape for my country so I can help in any way I can,” Mabil said. “Now I’ll get game time here (with a debut already under his belt) and hopefully I’ll also be able to help my national team, so it’s a win-win.

“If I’d stayed in Denmark then I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I wouldn’t be in shape physically or mentally.

“Now there are no excuses. I’m pushing hard to get back in for two very important games. 

“I think we’ll find a way to get there in the end.”

Mabil, 26, believes Istanbul-based Kasimpasa offers the perfect antidote to his Danish frustration. 

“I was surprised when I arrived at the incredible facilities -  they’re probably the best in Turkey,” he said of the 14th placed club.

“They’re the definitely the best I’ve ever seen. Every player has a hotel-like room at the training facility. It’s somewhere to relax.

“There are club chefs and the team flies in a private jet to games. 

“I was also surprised at the quality of the league, even though that’s not often talked about.

“I think I’ve already connected with the fans - that’s who I play football for - and the passion here is off the scale.

“The loan came on the last day of the window - I was prepared to stay in Denmark for the next six months.

“But I’m really grateful for the opportunity here - they really pushed and showed a lot of interest in getting me in and putting that trust in me.

“I packed up and left almost immediately for the airport. My girlfriend was crying because it all happened so fast. So it was pretty emotional.

“Sometimes some of the best decisions in your life are the unexpected ones - and I feel really good about this one (from a football perspective).”