January 17 – Australia manager Graham Arnold has urged his team to deploy their arial threat against Syria while India’s Igor Stimac wants his team to put in another compact performance but with a better outcome against Uzbekistan.
On Thursday, Group B heats up with a second round of matches and Arnold believes the Socceroos can provide more danger from set pieces after he expressed his dissatisfaction with Australia’s 2-0 opening win against India.
“Our set-pieces were not great against India,” said Arnold at a news conference. “We had a lot of corners and that is probably one of our strengths. We just need to improve on those little things.”
Having held Uzbekistan to a goalless draw in a remarkable show of discipline and commitment, Syria, coached by Hector Cuper, will represent an obdurate opponent for the Australians who laboured initially against India before sweeping past the Blue Tigers in the second half.
“We’ve done our homework,” said Arnold. “We’re expecting a physical game and we’ll be ready for it. We’ve watched Syria and we know they’ve got some strengths, but it’s about us tidying up the things that didn’t work against India and making sure we’re ready mentally for the game. I can’t control too much what Syria do, but I can with us and it’s important we get that right.”
The Indians will once again be the underdogs against Srecko Katanec’s team in a group that is shaping up to be very difficult to navigate for Stimac’s charges. The Blue Tigers have never made it out of the group stages and with fixtures against Uzbekistan and Hong Kong coming up they must get a result against the Central Asians.
“We are anticipating early pressure from them, and it’s crucial for us to be compact, vocal, and have a clear strategy for advancing into the final third and being effective there,” said Stimac. “We need to find a way to navigate through their strengths and capitalise on opportunities. It’s another crucial game for us. The match against Australia was fantastic, and I believe the lessons learned from that encounter will significantly benefit our future performances.”
Pointing at the number of Uzbeks plying their trade in European leagues, Stimac showered his opponents with praise but said that India are not at the tournament to make up the numbers.
Instead, he emphasised that his team target nothing but victories. “Our mindset is geared towards winning, always maintaining a winning mentality,” said the Croatian. “Our boys are ready, and I hope we create more opportunities than what we experienced in the first game.”
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