The Socceroos got their Asian Cup title defence off to the worst possible start earlier in the week as they went down to Jordan in their opening game 1-0. They’ll look to get back on track on Friday night when they square off in their second group game against Palestine getting underway from 10.00pm (AEDT).
The Socceroos under new coach Graham Arnold will be bitterly disappointed with their start to the group stage. They maintained 78% possession against Jordan and fired 19 shots to 10 but just couldn’t find the back of the net as they went down 1-0.
The Aussies now sit on the bottom of the Group B table after the other two teams in the group, Palestine and Syria played out a 0-0 draw in their opening game. The Socceroos will likely need to win both of their remaining games to ensure they qualify for the next round. This could mean that a sudden death playoff against Syria, much like the one the Socceroos faced in 2017 to qualify for the World Cup, could be on the cards.
Their first test, however, will be to make sure they get past Palestine on Friday night. Palestine entered the 2019 Asian Cup as the 99th ranked team in the world. They were recently victorious in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup, which is a six-team tournament involving Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Palestine, Philippines and Tajikistan, however, the level of competition in the Asian Cup will be a massive step up.
Palestine are winless in their last five games against Asian Cup caliber teams. They were beaten by Kyrgyzstan and Iraq in the lead up to the tournament and apart from their performances in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup and a friendly against Pakistan, they haven't won a game since 2017. Losses/draws over that period have come at the hands of Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Iran.
While the Australians will be disappointed with their start, they will be confident that they can get back on the winners list on Friday night. However, they’ll need to be more clinical going forward than they were against Jordan.
It’s no secret that Asian teams, particularly those in the Middle East, play a certain type of deep defences. In the past, the Socceroos have gotten by from moments of solo brilliance from the likes of Aaron Mooy and Tim Cahill. However, with the former injured for the tournament and the latter recently retired, the Australian avenues to goal are looking thin.
Much will rely on the playmaking ability of star attacking midfielder Tom Rogic on Friday night. Rogic looks the only player in the currently Australian lineup who is capable of breaking a line and making a game changing play to score or assist a goal.
Former Brisbane Roar star Jamie Maclaren started up front for the Socceroos on Sunday night and while he looks like getting the first crack once again against Palestine, there are questions over his finishing ability. Mathew Leckie remains a massive question mark for the Socceroos. His playmaking ability down the left side has been one of Australia’s easiest avenues to goal in recent times but a hamstring injury currently has him sidelined.
Australia certainly have some issues at the moment, but at the end of the day, they should be far too strong for Palestine on Friday night. While Jordan are ranked lower than Palestine in the FIFA International Rankings, they play a different brand of defence, one that deserves a spot much higher on the rankings list. We think this is another low scoring affair with the Aussies taking the chocolates.
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