Socceroos ready to embrace Asian Cup opportunity

Anna Harrington |

Australia’s No.13 Aiden O’Neill says the Socceroos have a massive opportunity in the Asian Cup.
Australia’s No.13 Aiden O’Neill says the Socceroos have a massive opportunity in the Asian Cup.

The Socceroos are determined to beat Uzbekistan, top their Asian Cup group and head into the knockouts in best position as other top teams stumble around them.

With their place in the round of 16 sealed, Graham Arnold’s charges can secure top spot in group B with a win or draw in Tuesday night’s match (10.30pm AEDT) at Al Janoub Stadium,

Topping the group is a massive incentive, not only because it softens the round-of-16 opponent, but because it would likely mean ending up on the opposite side of the draw to Japan.

The Blue Samurai suffered a shock loss to Iraq and are now likely to finish second in the group, which would flick them across the draw.

Meanwhile, South Korea could only salvage a draw against Jordan in another surprise result that underlined the importance of the Socceroos snaring two early, albeit scratchy, wins.

“You can see just how good the competition is with those sorts of results, with Japan and South Korea as well,” midfielder Aiden O’Neill said. 

“So it’s a massive opportunity for us as a team.”

Arnold insisted the surprise results only emphasised the need for Australia to keep grinding out wins.

“Japan got beat – that shows you how tough this competition is,” he said. 

“Japan losing to Iraq and South Korea drawing against Jordan shows you here in the Middle East that those nations are doing well.

“So it’s up to us to get out there and our mindset and our work-rate and our commitment and culture that we’ve got can do a great job for for all of us.”

The Socceroos will be without striker Mitch Duke (hamstring) for at least the Uzbekistan match, with Bruno Fornaroli looming as his replacement.

Australia will be determined to banish queries over their ability to break down a deep-lying defence.

“If people watch a lot of football, you watch the top teams in the world like Manchester City – they come across the same issues, teams sitting in a block,” O’Neill said.

“It’s definitely not as easy as it looks sometimes and we stick to the plan and the game plan and as we’ve shown the last two games, we get the result that we’re after.”

Arnold reiterated O’Neill’s point and added: “the most important thing for me, when you look at the couple of goals we scored, is getting players in the box and good numbers in the box to score goals. 

“And I think we’ve done that quite well. 

“When you look at the two goals, one against India and one against Syria, they weren’t fantastic goals from Jackson Irvine.

“But at least we’re getting him in the box now and giving us more numbers and more opportunities to score.”