As Australia’s quest to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ continues in Qatar and Japan over the next fortnight, Socceroos defender Aziz Behich has praised the squad’s depth and camaraderie.
Following the announcement of the Socceroos’ squad for October 2021 qualifiers against Oman and Japan, Behich has welcomed the competition for places that Graham Arnold has created within the setup.
Behich continues to serve as one of the most reliable names on the Socceroos' squad list, despite the emergence of new competition for Australia’s fullback positions.
Speaking on Socceroos Insider, the Giresunspor fullback believes the squad’s depth can only be a positive as they look to qualify for a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup™.
“As Arnie always says, it's healthy for the squad to have a lot of depth and different plays in every position,” Behich told Socceroos Insider.
At the moment, we have a great squad. I think we have a great mix of experience and a lot of young boys coming in through the Olyroos which is great to see.
“They had are a few good games in the Olympics and obviously, working with Arnie I think that they'll only get better.
“Competition is always healthy and at the end of the day, we're all in this together and our main goal is to qualify for the World Cup.
“We push each other in every training, all the players give one hundred percent and at the end of the day, our main goal is as a nation, as a group of players, it's just to get to that World Cup.”
Like most overseas-based Socceroos, Behich relishes the opportunity to link up with fellow Australians in camp.
‘Family’ and a sense of camaraderie has been the foundation that Arnold has laid for the squad to succeed.
Prior to the resumption of the qualifying campaign, the Socceroos’ boss emphasised his belief that his side’s sense of togetherness would be able to quickly see off any rust and disconnect that had arisen over the 18-month break.
Fast forward three months and the Socceroos are leading the pack at the top of Group B having secured ten straight wins in a single qualifying campaign.
Behich has no doubt that the squad’s mateship and togetherness has played a big part in the success so far.
“That's one thing that we really focus on is having a tight group, I think that brings a lot of success,” Behich said.
The family environment, since Arnie has come in, he has been one of the most important things.
“With new players coming into camp and for us as older players, it’s all about making them feel welcome and just to be comfortable so they can show their best football when they get the chance.
“I think our success so far is about our brotherhood. Every time we come together it's like we've never been apart.”
The side’s togetherness was on display in the last camp when Behich and Martin Boyle paid tribute to Mathew Leckie after scoring against China on matchday one.
Leckie wore the captain's armband for his nation during June's FIFA window, but after signing for Melbourne City in the A-League, he ruled himself out of Socceroos selection due to personal reasons and Australia's mandatory quarantine requirements.
Behich explained the logic behind Boyle's goal celebration after he rifled home Australia’s second goal in their victory over China on matchday one.
“Obviously Lecks and I are both from Melbourne,” he explained.
“We actually knew each other growing up and obviously is a big part of our squad now.
“Me, him and Boyley, in the last few camps have had a little bond going so I said to Boyley that we have to do something for Lecks.
With him being one of the leaders and captains, I know how much he wants to be in camp as well.
“Obviously, it's a bit difficult living in Australia and having family and whatnot so me and Boyley thought that we would do something for him if we score.
“It was something for him and we spoke to him after the game. We had a bit of a laugh about it as well so we're missing him a lot.
“But hopefully, he'll be back with us soon and we get to see him again.”
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar (Final Round)
Matchday 3: Australia v Oman
Date: Thursday, 7 October 2021
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar
Kick-off: 9.30pm local (5.30am AEDT – Friday, 8 October 2021)
Broadcast: Live and free in Australia on 10 and 10 Play – pre-game coverage from 5am AEDT
Matchday 4: Japan v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan
Kick-off: 7.14pm local (9.14pm AEDT)
Broadcast: Live and free in Australia on 10 Bold and 10 Play – pre-game coverage from 8.30pm AEDT