Australia warn rivals they are only getting started after victory over Palestine

The Aussie were just too good for the Palestinians. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Australia warn rivals they are only getting started after victory over Palestine

  • Socceroos bounce back from shock defeat to Jordan.
  • Coach now claims they are the team to beat in the UAE.

LONDON: Australia’s victory over Palestine is just the start, the Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has warned. 

Having lost their Group B opener 1-0 to Jordan, the defending champions went into the match with several question marks hanging over them. That result was the tournament’s first shock and left many wondering whether the Aussies would fail to get out of the group and so suffer an embarrassing early exit. But after the Jordan setback Arnold promised his side would learn from the defeat, move on and improve, and on the evidence of the 90 minutes in Dubai against the Palestinians his guarantee was as strong as the performance. 

Goals from Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou banished memories of the shock Jordan defeat and moved the Socceroos to second in the group behind their first-match conquerors. 

Having secured their first points of the tournament Arnold then issued a warning to Australia’s rivals claiming there was a lot more to come from his team. 

“As I said after the Jordan game, when you lose, you learn,” the Socceroos coach explained.

“And we learned a lot from that day We went onto the training pitch, we worked hard to fix the issues if the opponents play defensively.

“We’ll get better and better as we go. There have been a lot of changes in the team, a lot of changes, so we’re a new team and will still grow.”

Australia did indeed arrive in the UAE with several familiar faces missing either through retirement (Tim Cahill) or injury (Aaron Mooy). So perhaps it is no shock, with hindsight, that they started slowly and with a loss to Jordan. But having got that vital first win under their belts they still have to get a result against Syria to ensure progression. 

While the Syrians seem in disarray, having taken just one point form their two matches and subsequently sacked coach Bernd Stange, Arnold is all too aware that the side possess some fine players and are more than capable of beating his Socceroos. 

“Now it’s all about the Syria game,” Arnold said.

“This will be a difficult game. We know them well having played against them in the World Cup qualifier. 

“We’ll go back to the training field, we’ll recover well and we’ll go out for the Syria game with all guns blazing, expecting to win.”

Against Palestine Arnold dropped the under-performing Massimo Luongo and Robbie Kruse in favor of Jackson Irvine and Chris Ikonomidis, who impressed as substitutes against Jordan.

And it was a far more dynamic team that opened their account on 18 minutes, when Celtic’s Tom Rogic picked out Maclaren, who scored his first international goal with a glancing header.

Two minutes later and the Socceroos were 2-0 up as Ikonomidis lofted a ball to the far post, where Mabil sneaked in unmarked for a first-time finish.

Substitute striker Giannou made the final scoreline reflect Australia’s dominance, nodding a third for Australia in the final minute.


Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019
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Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.



BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.



UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE



The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.



BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.

 

PREDICTIONS