January 12 – Australian coach Graham Arnold (pictured) expects his Socceroos to put Syria to the sword in their final group B game after Australia’s commanding 3-0 win over Palestine on Friday. In 2017 Australia eliminated Syria in a dramatic play-off 3-2 on aggregate from the World Cup finals in Russia.
Chris Ikonomidis, Jackson Irvine and Rhyan Grant, three new starters in Arnold’s starting eleven, injected Australia with energy and pace against Palestine. Arnold had demanded a reaction from his players after an insipid defeat against Jordan. The defending champions cruised to a routine 3-0 win.
“Palestine pretty much tried to play the same game plan as Jordan did,” said Arnold. “We obviously haven’t been that long together – the players didn’t have a long camp like some of the other countries, so it’s taken a bit of time to get things going. But as I said after the Jordan game, when you lose you learn. And we learned a lot from that day.”
Australia climbed to second spot in group B on three points and a point against Syria will likely be enough to progress to the knockout stages. Syria are a familiar foe for the Australians: under Arnold’s predecessor Ange Postecolgou the Socceroos toiled to get their World Cup ticket for Russia against the Syrians in a nervy 3-2 aggregate win. They narrowly avoided elimination when Syria striker Omar Al Somah’s late free-kick rattled the woodwork in extra time.
On Thursday, Syria however dismissed their coach Bernd Stange following a 2-0 defeat against Jordan. “Now it’s all about the Syria game,” said Arnold. “We’ll get back on the training field, and recover well. We’ll go into the Syria game with all guns blazing and expecting to win. We’ll get better and better as we go. There’s been a lot of changes in the team, a lot of changes in the staff, so we’re a new team, and will still grow.”
Palestine’s coach Nourredine Ould Ali stressed that Palestine will need a result in their final group to progress. The Palestinians have not scored yet at the Asian Cup, but Jordan, a team qualified for the round of sixteen, may offer an avenue to goals and qualification.
“We were playing against a team which win the title of Asia previously, don’t forget,” said Ould Ali. “In the future if we would like to win we have to make a result. We have to work hard. We have to be responsible in regard to the presence and absence of players, these are the particulars in preparation of a game.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553075362labto1553075362ofdlr1553075362owedi1553075362sni@o1553075362fni1553075362