January 21 – Australian coach Graham Arnold believes his team will step up in the knockout stages of the competition after a modest first round. The Socceroos will face Uzbekistan in the round of sixteen.
The Australians failed to convince in the group stages after suffering a surprise 1-0 defeat against Jordan in their opening game and sneaking past Syria 3-2 with a last-gasp Tom Rogic winner to seal qualification for the second round.
“We’re into the last 16, so it’s a step up in the competition and a step up in the tournament and I expect our team to step up another level as well,” said Arnold. “But we’ve analysed them and we expect to expose their weaknesses. They’ve had a three-day turnaround and we’ve had five so we’re mentally fresh and feel great and are ready to go for this game.”
The Socceroos have enjoyed two more rest days than Uzbekistan and face a team which comes off the back of a 2-1 loss against Japan. Hector Cuper however has no doubts that his team will bounce back and provide stern opposition for the reigning champions
“We know the importance of tomorrow’s game,” said Cuper. “It’s the knockout stage, so we have no room to make errors. We will come to the pitch to win, but at the same time we realise Australia are a tough rival and one of the best teams in Asia.”
“During the last three days we have tried to improve on all of our mistakes and we have tried to analyse the Australia side. Based on their advantages, we will make some changes but it doesn’t mean we’re going to change the system or style of our game. We will come to the pitch and the players will do their best to get the necessary result.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1603651853labto1603651853ofdlr1603651853owedi1603651853sni@o1603651853fni1603651853