January 14 – Defending champions Australia, Palestine and Syria will battle on Tuesday for the remaining knockout spots in Group B. Jordan, the surprise package of the tournament so far, have already qualified as group winners.
The Socceroos have declared they are ready for anything Syria will throw at them while Palestine will treat their game against already qualified Jordan as a final.
Pre-tournament Australia and Syria had been the clear favourites to get out of their group, but on Tuesday they will meet in the knowledge that a slip-up will lead to an early exit. Socceroos midfielder Jackson Irvine is confident that Australia will deal with their opponents.
“Whatever situation they throw at us, we have the experience and the individuals and as a squad to be able to deal with those threats,” said Irvine. “We’re not sure obviously how they’re going to approach the game but we’re prepared for all these scenarios. If they do choose to come out early doors and press us high, that maybe does suit us playing a different way to create chances and attack in a different way.”
“If we start the game in the same way we started the last game – positive, front-foot, picking the right moments to try and penetrate and play forward passes – then if we can get that early goal that will draw them out even further knowing they need a result.”
The Syrians need to win against the reigning Asian champions to book a ticket for the round of 16. A goalless draw against Palestine and a defeat to Jordan led to the dismissal of their coach Bernd Stange has left them in a shoot-out with the nation that ended their hopes of qualifying for their first-ever World Cup a little over a year ago.
“During World Cup qualification the atmosphere was the significant thing,” said Syrian coach Ebrahim. “In the football world there is nothing new in terms of tactics, it’s about mental readiness. We had a high level of focus and concentration. This is what we are focusing on regaining, the past atmosphere. Everybody observed our games saw we were lacking mental readiness.”
Palestine look to break down borders
Jordan have already been confirmed as group winners after a flying start to the tournament. They recorded successive wins against both Australia and Syria, but their Belgian coach Vital Borkelmans is not focused on their match with Palestine rather than the games ahead.
“I never look further than the next match. What comes after that we will see,” he said. “It is [currently] important that my team plays well against Palestine, and that we try to perform to the very best of our ability and, in the process, create plenty of chances. We must play as we did against Australia and Syria to show people that we are ready for the Round of 16.”
Like Syria, Palestine require a win to progress and their coach Nourredine Ould Ali is well aware of the challenge that awaits his players. So far the tournament has gone to script for the Palestinians with a point against Syria and an acceptable defeat to Australia, but their final group game has almost become a knockout game and Ould Ali has told his players that the Syria match is nothing less than a final.
“Our objective is simply to win the game, qualify for the knockout phase and make the Palestinian people happy,” said Ould Ali. “We will be playing against Jordan as if it is a final. We spoke to the players after the game against Australia, and they are now ready and willing to sacrifice everything in order to qualify – something which would be very historic. Jordan are a strong team. We have watched their previous games and how they play. However, it is my team’s duty to be ready for every possibility. It is up to us to make the difference, it up to us to qualify.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1568895567labto1568895567ofdlr1568895567owedi1568895567sni@o1568895567fni1568895567