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Graham Arnold warns Australia must be ‘ready for war’ in crucial World Cup game with Tunisia

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Graham Arnold warns Australia must be ‘ready for war’ in crucial World Cup match against Tunisia and admits the Socceroos’ 12-year wait for a tournament victory is giving him nightmares: ‘I haven’t slept in a long time’

Graham Arnold prepares the Socceroos for a football war ahead of Saturday’s game against Tunisia.

After a 4-1 thrashing of France, Australia’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages for the first time in 16 years hinge on the game against the North Africans.

Graham Arnold has warned the Socceroos to be ready for a war against Tunisia

A draw or win would leave Australia needing a result from their final group game against Denmark next week, but a loss to Tunisia would see the end of their World Cup campaign.

And while reigning champions France presented a challenge of flair and finesse, Arnold expects the Tunisians to test the Australian mentality.

Ranked world number 30, the North Africans were impressive on Tuesday as they held Denmark to a stalemate in the opening Group D game and will be backed by a boisterous crowd on Saturday, with around 40,000 Tunisians estimated to live in Doha.

“We have to be ready for that war,” Arnold told reporters.

Arnold said he expects Tunisia to test the Socceroos' mental strength on Saturday

Arnold said he expects Tunisia to test the Socceroos’ mental strength on Saturday

“They are aggressive and they will have 40,000 fans behind them and it will be another great experience for everyone.”

The message from the Socceroos boss to his players is blunt.

“Fight fire with fire, especially from the start,” he said.

“And then when we’re awake, we’ll put out the fire.”

Australia took a shocking lead against France in the opening game, but went on to lose 4–1

Australia took a shocking lead against France in the opening game, but went on to lose 4–1

Craig Goodwin's stunning finish put the Socceroos ahead with less than 10 minutes played

Craig Goodwin’s stunning finish put the Socceroos ahead with less than 10 minutes played

But France turned the game around in four minutes thanks to goals from Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud (above), before two more were scored in the second half

But France turned the game around in four minutes thanks to goals from Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud (above), before two more were scored in the second half

The Socceroos World Cup got off to a flying start as Craig Goodwin’s stunning finish gave them a shocking early lead against France.

Australia had the defending champions upset in the opening 20 minutes, but Les Bleus’ class eventually shone through Adrien Rabiot equalized midway through the first half and Olivier Giroud put France ahead four minutes later.

With Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann running rampant, the defending champions tore Australia to shreds with the PSG star adding a second after the break before Giroud completed his double.

Always the optimist, Arnold said he regarded the thrashing against France as ‘the best friendly we could ever have’ with the Socceroos’ focus now firmly on Tunisia and Denmark.

Tunisia were impressive in their 0-0 draw against Denmark in their opening game

Tunisia were impressive in their 0-0 draw against Denmark in their opening game

“It’s a two-game tournament now,” he said.

“We need to win the next two [matches] and there is no better opposition to play against in a so-called friendly match than France, who will punish you for every little mistake like they did.

“It’s a great learning experience for a lot of those young guys out there. We had 11 debutants and that’s what it’s all about, not only for this campaign, but also for the next one.’

Australia have not won a World Cup match in 12 years since Tim Cahill and Brett Holman scored in a 2-1 win against Serbia in the last game of Group D at the 2010 World Cup.

Tim Cahill (left) celebrates with Lucas Neill after scoring the opening goal in Australia's 2-1 win over Serbia in the final round of Group D at the 2010 World Cup

Tim Cahill (left) celebrates with Lucas Neill after scoring the opening goal in Australia’s 2-1 win over Serbia in the final round of Group D at the 2010 World Cup

About 4,358 days have passed since then Arnold admitted that he dreamed of ending that run.

‘I haven’t slept in a long time, I long for that [a World Cup victory] so much,” he explained.

And it’s not for me, it’s for the nation. Only two wins in 17 matches. You know, I just want to put a smile on Australian faces, it’s not about me at all, if it was about me I probably would have left long ago. You know, it’s about helping the kids.”

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