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It’s do or die for Socceroos as Palestine lurk
January 11, 2019
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Dubai: Australia may be the AFC Asian Cup defending champions, but head coach Graham Arnold said the achievements of 2015 are irrelevant ahead of Friday’s must-win Group B fixture against Palestine.

A shock opening defeat to Jordan has left the holders in a potentially precarious position should they fail to win at Rashid Stadium, and Arnold said it was up to the players here and now to get their campaign back on track.

With Jordan having sealed one Round of 16 spot from the group after defeating Syria 2-0 on Thursday, Friday’s match is a tie Australia can’t afford to drop points in.

“Four years ago is a long time, and it’s a completely different team to what we had four years ago,” declared Arnold, who also led the Australians at the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.

“Four years ago it was played in Australia on home soil, this time its here in the UAE, with a totally different team.

“It’s a great memory for Australian football, of course, but now it’s all about the moment. We handed the trophy back the day before the tournament started before the UAE vs Bahrain match, and the trophy is there to be won again.”

Australia and Palestine have never crossed paths in a competitive international, and few would have expected them to meet with the Palestinians ahead of the holders in the Group B, but while Arnold isn’t expecting an easy day’s work, backed his side to respond in the best way possible.

“We expect a great reaction from the players,” he asserted.

“The boys are going into this match with a lot of confidence, a lot of belief and expectation to win.”

The Socceroos enjoyed the ascendancy in nearly all statistical categories in their loss in Al Ain, but struggled to overcome a deep-lying Jordanian defence that kept clear cut chances to a minimum.

But rather than reinvent the wheel, Arnold called on his charges to improve their execution.

“Something that Australians also have is a great attitude to fight. Palestine will be aggressive and its important that we win the battle,” he said.

“You don’t want to look back, but against Jordan we controlled 76 percent of possession, we had some good chances and on another day we would have scored three or four goals.”

Arnold confirmed the injured Josh Risdon would play no part in Friday’s game, and revealed Andrew Nabbout would be available only as a substitute, although Celtic dynamo Tom Rogic has been given the all clear and is expected to start.

Pleased Palestine

While Australia were left licking their wounds after Matchday One, Palestine head coach Noureddine Ould Ali said his side were satisfied with their 0-0 draw with Syria - a result which gave them their first Finals point in competition history.

“In the last game we were very defensive because the conditions of the match did not allow us to change our style,” said the Algerian boss.

“But we were very pleased with our performance and the point we got in the first game, and that was the most important thing.”

Australia’s loss to Jordan was one of the major talking points of the competition’s opening week, and Ould Ali said he had picked up on some deficiencies he hoped his players would seize on.

“You need to know that we are in 2019, and every team is able to give a good performance,” he declared.

“In regard to Jordan against Australia we studied the game between them and (Australia’s) strengths, but we also noticed points of weakness and we are also going to exploit such weaknesses.”

Palestine will need to make do without red-carded defender Moahmmed Saleh, while Musab Battat and Jonathan Zorrilla are one yellow card away from suspension, as is Australia’s Trent Sainsbury.

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