Al Ain: Awer Mabil admitted Australia’s opening loss against Jordan at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 shook the defending champions into action and inspired Graham Arnold’s side to secure a place in the knockout rounds with subsequent back-to-back victories.
Australia notched up a second win in a row on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory over Syria that took them into the Round of 16 following an earlier victory over Palestine as the Socceroos claimed second place in Group B.
The win over the Syrians in an incident-packed game was sparked by Mabil’s second goal of the tournament and the FC Midtjylland striker said the challenges of a demanding group gave the Australians a jolt ahead of their progress to the next phase of the competition.
“It’s prepared us very well,” he said of the rigours of the group stages. “The first game gave us a reality check and we needed to get things right and we’ve done that in last two games and we just need to continue that for the do-or-die games. There’s a lot to give and it’s very exciting.
“I think the first game, the first 20 minutes especially when they scored first, they just defended for their lives and that made it difficult. We realised we needed to change something and we did that in the last game and we continued today and we’re going to continue that in the next game and continue that momentum.”
Mabil put the Australians in front against Syria with a sumptuous curling strike from outside the area before Omar Khrbin levelled. Chris Ikonomidis put Australia back in front, only for Omar Al Soma to score with a penalty. But Tom Rogic had the last word with a stunning strike from distance to give Australia the win in added time.
“It was quite a battle but we believe we just need to focus,” said Mabil. ‘It was a good crowd, a good atmosphere to play and I think the boys enjoyed the occasion and we were strong in the mental part to not let anything affect us.”
“I think I’ve scored better but I’m really pleased with that. I scored a really good free-kick with the Under-20 team a few years ago but this is a really good moment and I’m going to enjoy it.
“We’re going to go a long way in this tournament, so I think we just need to continue the momentum and not dwell on today. We need to take the positive from today.”
Should Australia reach the final, Mabil has already made plans to fly his mother to the United Arab Emirates for the game as the Australians attempt to win the AFC Asian Cup for a second time in a row.
“I’m planning for the final I’ll fly them over, that’s the plan,” he said. “We’re building a good momentum now, so we’re going to go a long way. I’m very confident in our team. There’s a lot more to give.”