I can star from the start, insists impact ace Arzani

After just 29 minutes off the bench in three cameos for his country, Daniel Arzani has declared himself ready to provide the inspiration the Socceroos desperately need to stay alive at the FIFA World Cup.


(L-R) Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Olivier Giroud, Daniel Arzani and Robbie Kruse Source: Getty Images

Whilst resolute at the back and solid in midfield in their luckless 2-1 opening loss to France, Australia were noticeably toothless in attack.

And that is where the dancing feet and cocksure strut of Arzani may come in - ideally, in his own estimation, from the start in Thursday’s must-win match with Denmark.

Forget being tagged as purely an impact weapon at Russia 2018, the 19-year-old wizard-in-the-making, has proclaimed he’s ready to deliver from the first whistle in Samara against a Danish side with three points in the bag after their 1-0 defeat of Peru.

The bottom line for coach Bert van Marwijk is that he must now uncork an attacking torrent bottled up against the French.

And Arzani could be the champagne selection able to inject a fizz and flourish in the final third.

“I feel like I am ready, especially given the intensity of the (pre-World Cup) training camp in Turkey where we were training twice a day - on most days,” said the Melbourne City youngster, who just over six months ago was playing youth league football.

“I have given myself the best opportunity and I have tried the hardest I can and that’s all you can do. It’s just up to the boss now.”

And so it is, with van Marwijk juggling several attacking scenarios in search of the elixir of goals and assists, both of which Arzani, and his growing fan club, believe he can deliver.

Maturing fast under the mentorship of Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan in Russia, Arzani is all too aware of the pressing need for an attacking emphasis against Christian Eriksen and company.

“If you go into a game, and it’s a must-win match, then the only logical solution is to make sure you’re attacking and creating more chances,” added Arzani, who scored Australia’s opener in the 2-1 win over Hungary in their final warm-up.

Should van Marwijk be swayed by the case for Arzani starting for the first time, the most likely to give way would be Robbie Kruse on the right wing, Arzani’s natural home for his club.

He claims to be unaffected by the attention which follows his every feint, dribble, shuffle and step over, insisting the only pressure he feels comes from within.

“Nobody’s expectations of me will ever be as high as my own, or that of my parents,” he added.

“I think that helps you deal with the pressure because the most pressure I’m getting is the one I put on myself.”

Whilst describing his World Cup debut as, “Jesus Christ this is cool”, Arzani is also beginning to see rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann as his new normal.

“It is all a bit surreal ... and it hits you sometimes that the extraordinary has become ordinary for you,” he explained.

“Walking out onto the park and Griezmann is over there and Pogba is over here ... it kind of loses its glamour a bit because you become used to it.

“The biggest moment for me was the beginning of the game when I’m looking around and seeing all these Aussie fans with the yellow shirts everywhere and singing the national anthem.

“Your heart is pumping through your chest when you realise the gravity of the situation and you know you’re a part of it and representing your country on the biggest stage. It’s emotional.”

Should Arzani be unleashed again, there’s no doubt he’ll be given free rein to roll the dice by van Marwijk.

“Coming into the Hungary game and the France game, when it’s kind of locked down and it doesn’t look like either team is really going to do anything, he kind of just tells me to go out and not be afraid to take risks,” he said.

“He just tells me to do my thing and I think it’s important to have a coach who does that.

“I’m confident in what I do. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life.

“I just want to be me and do the best that I can. Some people might take that as being cocky but for me, I’m just happy to do me.”

Arzani reiterated that despite being monitored by Iran, the land of his ancestors, he never wavered in answering Australia’s call.

“My intention was always to play for Australia. I lived most of my life there and I owe a lot to Australian football.

“We left Iran because my parents wanted a better life for me and my brother and to represent the country that helped us is special.”

The youngest player at the World Cup, Arzani is already plotting his next career step, amid strong interest from the Netherlands.

PEC Zwolle, coached by his former Melbourne City mentor John van 't Schip, have already made advances and Arzani made no secret of his desire for a European move after Russia 2018.

“Definitely, but at this stage the focus is on the World Cup and getting through this, having as big an impact as possible,” he replied when asked if the Eredivisie was an option.

“After [the World Cup] we'll focus on picking a club and the best way to go forward."

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5 min read
Published 18 June 2018 at 8:47pm
By Dave Lewis in Kazan