A “fresh” Mat Leckie says the Socceroos’ gripping penalty shootout win has bought the tight-knit squad even closer together ahead of Saturday’s (AEDT) AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ Quarter Final against the United Arab Emirates.
Graham Arnold’s side booked their spot in the last eight thanks to their thrilling 4-2 shootout win over Uzbekistan on Tuesday (AEDT).
Leckie played a significant role in the victory, slotting the winning spot-kick after keeper Mat Ryan had made two incredible saves.
And with another huge clash against the tournament’s host nation to come in the early hours of Saturday morning (AEDT), the speedy attacker says the manner of Round of 16 victory has left a very positive feeling in the camp.
“We’ve got a good vibe going after the last game. It was a great game and obviously a special finish,” Leckie told www.socceroos.com.au.
“It’s always exciting penalty shootouts and the fact we ended up winning, it brought us closer together.”
Leckie added: “Since I’ve been here in the national team there hasn’t been any penalty shootouts so it was new for a lot of us.
“I think the boys that took their penalties did really well. The focus to be calm in that situation, we did really well.
“We went behind in the shootout but Maty [Ryan] did a great job to get us back into it and the boys did well to finish it off.
“It’s a nervous moment for every player but it’s just about being mentally strong and getting the job done.”
The Uzbekistan clash was Leckie’s first appearance of the tournament, having missed the entire group stage as he recovered from a hamstring injury.
Mathew Leckie celebrates the winning penalty against Uzbekistan
The Socceroos medical staff did a superb job nursing the Hertha Berlin winger back to full fitness and Leckie was able to play almost an hour off the bench at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.
With playmaker Tom Rogic suspended for the UAE clash, Leckie is one of a host of options for Arnold to fill the void.
“I feel good. I wasn’t expecting to play [60 minutes] but it ended up working out like that,” Leckie said.
“I was a bit sore after the game, being out for a few weeks, but with the recovery we’ve done, and we’ve been really focused on that, I’m feeling really good again.
“I’m feeling fresh so if I am most of the boys are. We’ll be buzzing for the game.”
The Socceroos get underway against UAE at 3am (AEDT) on Saturday and you can catch all the action live on FOX SPORTS 505.
You can also see all the goals and follow the game from Al Ain in our live match blog on www.socceroos.com.au.
Source : Socceroos WEBSITE