Oceania on the rise, says Arnold

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have returned from New Caledonia pleased with the outcome of their trip to the pacific.

The experienced Graham Arnold says OFC nations have improved since his time with the Qantas Socceroos

CENTRAL Coast Mariners have returned from New Caledonia pleased with the outcome of their trip to the pacific.

Les Cagous invited the Mariners to Noumea for two friendly matches as preparation for their qualifying match with New Zealand for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The Mariners managed a draw in their first match against Alain Moizan-s men before recording a convincing 4-2 victory the second time the two teams met.

The trip allowed the squad to secure some much needed match fitness as they continue to lead up to the opening round of the 2012/13 Hyundai A-League season.

Graham Arnold, Head Coach of the Central Coast Mariners believes the two matches were ideal for his squad.

“The intensity of the two games that we had were probably higher than what we probably would have been able to get back here in Australia at this time of the season,” Arnold said. “Overall it was perfect.”

Indeed, Arnold said he recognised the improvement in the New Caledonians since his experiences with the Qantas Socceroos in Oceania in the early-to-mid 2000s.

“Oceania has come a long way since my experience with the national teams years ago - they were push overs at the time,” he said.

“We built up a great relationship with their organisation while we were over there and any way we can assist each other we will be doing it.”

New Caledonia receives a backing from the French Football Federation and their international side has four players who compete in France-s top leagues.

The trip allowed for Arnold to gauge his team-s progress at this point of the preseason.

Arnold also used the trip as an opportunity to focus on the younger players in the squad.

“It is a good gauge to see where the young boys are at,” he said. “I used the young boys a lot over there and gave them more playing time."

Arnold acknowledged the season opener will be the real test for the Mariners.

“The real stuff starts October 6 for us against the Western Sydney Wanderers and we still have a lot of work to do before then.”

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