Al Ain: Australia’s defence of their AFC Asian Cup title came to an end on Friday evening as Ali Mabkhout’s second half goal earned tournament hosts the United Arab Emirates a 1-0 win over the Socceroos and set up a semi-final meeting with Qatar.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s side will now take on Qatar with a place in the final at stake as the hosts moved one step closer to emulating their run to the deciding game when the tournament was last held in the UAE in 1996.
With Tom Rogic unavailable due to suspension, Graham Arnold went for a tactical switch that saw Australia start with Jamie Maclaren and Apostolos Giannou paired together in attack while Robbie Kruse and Chris Ikonomidis patrolled the flanks.
There were changes, too, for the hosts. Ismaeil Mattar made his first start of the tournament alongside Mabkhout as Zaccheroni also introduced Walid Abbas, Fares Juma, Majed Hassan and Mohamed Ahmad as he made five changes to the side that eventually saw off Kyrgyz Republic.
Zaccheroni’s alterations were the first to take effect as the Emiratis started brightly. With less than a minute on the clock, Ismail Al Hammadi controlled Ali Hassan’s ball into the area before forcing Ryan to palm the ball clear.
In a lively opening, Trent Sainsbury sent his looping header of Ikonomidis’ corner over the bar as both teams started with few inhibitions.
Ryan was on hand once more to deny the hosts as the clock ticked towards the 20 minute mark when Al Hammadi, again, threatened after stepping inside Sainsbury to fire off an effort that the Socceroos keeper pushed away.
Neither side was prepared to sit back in an open and entertaining first half, with Australia taking advantage of the space in midfield to dominate for periods without finding a way through the well-drilled Emirati defence.
With five minutes left in the half the Socceroos did find a way through as Giannou was presented with the time to set his sight on goal, but Khalid Eisa swatted that shot clear. At the other end, Ali Mabkhout missed the chance of the half, heading over from close range.
Australia ramped up the pressure in the second period as Degenek and Jackson Irvine both saw their headers from corners miss the target and Ikonomidis dragged his shot just wide. Giannou then had the ball in the net following the introduction of Mathew Leckie for Maclaren, but his effort was ruled out for offside.
There was to be no such intervention, though in the 68th minute when Mabkhout put the UAE ahead with their first opening of the second period, the Al Jazira forward alert enough to step in to intercept Degenek’s backpass before rounding Ryan to score.
Australia grew increasingly desperate as the clock ticked down, with Arnold throwing on Awer Mabil and Andrew Nabbout in an attempt to claw back an equaliser but the Socceroos came up short to end their reign as Asian champions and allow the UAE advance.
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation WEBSITE
Striker Apostolos Giannou says the preparation the Socceroos did on penalties heading into the Round of 16 clash against Uzbekistan was key in their victory.
Australia moved into the Quarter Finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ after seeing off the Uzbeks 4-2 in the shootout on Tuesday morning (AEDT).
With tournament football always throwing up difficult matches, there is always the possibility games will be decided on penalties, and the Socceroos were ready.
“We had it in the back of our heads just in case it got to the point [of a shootout],” Giannou revealed to www.socceroos.com.au.
“So, the last couple of training sessions we actually worked on it and we were ready for the penalty shootout.”
He added on keeper Maty Ryan, who made two stunning saves in the shootout: “He’s incredible. He’s an amazing player, amazing keeper, and he’s probably the reason we are in the last eight.
“He plays a big role, he stepped up when he needed to step up and we thank him for that.”
Giannou, who came off the bench for Australia in the second half, was also a key contributor in the shootout.
He took the Socceroos’ third penalty attempt, blasting home his spot-kick with confidence.
“It’s not an easy place to be at but I’m very happy that I scored and I’m very happy the team progressed to the quarter finals,” the AEK Larnaca striker said.
“It was a big night, but we need to recover and refresh for the next game.”
And that next fixture for Graham Arnold’s men is a Quarter Final against the tournament hosts United Arab Emirates.
Saturday morning’s clash (AEDT) – at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium – means the Socceroos will avoid travel, remaining at their current base in Al Ain.
“It’s a good thing that we’re staying here,” Giannou admitted.
“We are used to the environment and all we can do is get ourselves ready for [UAE], get our recovery in and start focusing on the next game.”
Source : Socceroos WEBSITE
The Socceroos will be up against the weight of home support when they meet the United Arab Emirates in the Quarter Finals of AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ on Saturday morning (AEDT).
Al Ain will again be the scene as Australia attempt to build on their nail-biting shootout triumph against Uzbekistan, which came after 120 minutes of heavy possession and perspiration.
Mat Ryan shone with two superb spot-kick saves and Graham Arnold has expressed confidence in his players’ ability to back up from that match.
He will, however, be forced to compensate for the absence of a suspended key man for a do-or-die encounter that is simply not to be missed.
Date: Saturday, January 26 (AEDT)
Venue: Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
Kick-off: 3:00am (AEDT)
Prevailing on penalties against a disciplined and defensive Uzbekistan will have reinforced the Socceroos’ belief they can emerge victorious from high-pressure situations.
That will need to be the case once more on Saturday morning (AEDT) with host nation UAE certain to enjoy fervent support.
An in-form Ryan certainly plays in Australia’s favour and the gun goalkeeper takes two clean sheets in his last three outings into the next assignment.
Another in Al Ain would go a long way to securing the team’s passage into the Semi Finals.
Source : Socceroos WEBSITE
Al Ain: Graham Arnold will wait until the morning of his side’s meeting with the United Arab Emirates before deciding on his starting lineup as defending champions Australia set their sights on a place in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 on Friday.
Arnold will break from his usual practice of informing his players ahead of their final training session to give himself and his coaching staff more time to make an assessment of his team in the aftermath of their penalty shootout win over Uzbekistan in the Round of 16.
The Central Asian side pushed the Socceroos to the limits in their meeting in Al Ain on Monday, with goalkeeper Maty Ryan emerging as the hero for Australia as the country progressed to the quarter-finals for the third tournament in a row.
“We’ve recovered very well from the performance against Uzbekistan – the extra time and the penalty shootout – and the boys are in fantastic headspace,” said Arnold. “Probably playing those extra minutes has built a lot of confidence and belief within the group. When we look back at that performance, we know there’s a lot of improvement left in us and I expect a great performance tomorrow night.
“Normally I name the team the night – or the last training session – before, but for this one I decided not to. It’s really around the side of recovery. We only played three days ago and I want to see the fresh players training today and I want to see the mentality and the freshness and I’ll make the decision on the line-up tomorrow morning.”
Tom Rogic will miss the game due to suspension but, with Mathew Leckie now fully recovered from a hamstring injury and Andrew Nabbout declaring himself fit, Arnold now has a squad that is close to full strength available going into the game against the tournament hosts.
The game will be the fourth time in five games at this year’s AFC Asian Cup that the Socceroos will have faced off against a side from West Asia and Arnold believes the earlier meetings with Jordan, Syria and Palestine will have helped prepare his team for the clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
“Uzbekistan played more of a European style game, I think the experience of playing against Syria and Palestine is more close to the UAE,” he said. “We are learning a lot every game. UAE are the home nation and we respect the UAE but we will play our way, in our style and expect to dominate the game.
“We’ve done our homework on them and no doubt they’ve done their homework on us. We have a lot of belief in our group. We work a lot with the players mentally to get that advantage over the opposition.”
And Arnold believes a partisan home crowd is just as likely to put pressure on the tournament hosts as it is to intimidate his players when they meet on Friday evening.
“A full stadium for the UAE can work two ways,” he said. “It can work to help or it can work the opposite way and put a lot of pressure on them because they’re the home nation. That has nothing to do with us. All we can do is prepare ourselves properly and get ourselves ready.”
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation WEBSITE
Assistant coach Rene Meulensteen believes should the United Arab Emirates live up to their pre-game vow to attack the Socceroos, it could play into Australia’s hands in Saturday morning’s (AEDT) AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ Quarter Final.
In his pre-game press conference ahead of tomorrow’s clash, UAE boss Alberto Zaccheroni said he’ll instruct his side to attack the Socceroos at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
It’s a scenario Australia hasn’t encountered too often at the tournament so far, with most opponents happy to sit deep and play on the counter-attack.
Asked if UAE’s plan to attack would benefit the Socceroos, Meulensteen said: “Yes I believe so because it’s always very difficult if you come up against opponents that basically start the game not to lose it.
“Then it’s for us to break them down. You need the quality, you need the speed of play, but you also need things going for you.
“The chances you create, you need to put in the back of the net. But if a team plays to win it becomes a more expansive game and that will definitely suit us.”
Australia put the final touches to their preparation on Thursday, with a short but intense session designed to ensure the players are ready for the challenge of trying to book a spot in the last four.
As the host nation, UAE will have the majority of support in Al Ain but it’s a scenario the Socceroos are thriving under.
“It’s an exciting game for us. Its always great to play the home nation, they have great support and whether that brings extra pressure for them, I don’t know,” Meulensteen said.
“We just have to make sure we’re at our best, at our very, very best, and it will be a great occasion that’s for sure.”
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