Australia still learning, says Arnold
Al Ain: Australia coach Graham Arnold claimed his ever-improving Socceroos are still on a learning curve after the defending champions moved into the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with a dramatic late win over Syria in Al Ain on Tuesday evening.
Tom Rogic scored deep into added time to earn the Australians a last-gasp win after the Syrians twice pinned them back in their own search for a victory that would have taken them into the Round of 16.
Awer Mabil put Australia in front before Omar Khrbin levelled while Chris Ikonomidis’ second half effort was cancelled out from the penalty spot by Omar Al Soma, only for Rogic to slam the ball home from 25 yards in the third minute of added time.
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“In every game the boys are learning, because it’s a young team,” said Arnold. “One thing I’ve learned a lot in the past is when you score a goal, or concede a goal, you have a three or four minute emotional window that the team or the opposition switch off.
“As I said to the boys at halftime, that’s another thing we have learned. Straight after we scored, we conceded and that is when you have to be more focused than ever. We’re learning every game."
“It was a helter skelter game at times because Syria play very direct and very long, and it’s all about the second ball and it’s all about the challenges and it’s all about playing against the way we want to play because the ball’s in the air all the time. We want it on the ground. It was a good performance in that respect.”
Rogic’s goal earned Australia all three points and saw them finish Group B in second place behind Jordan, and the Socceroos will now face either Japan or Uzbekistan in the next phase of the competition.
The loss means the Syrians finished bottom of the group with a solitary point from their opening 0-0 draw with Palestine despite an improved performance under new coach Fajr Ebrahim, who took over from Bernd Stange following a 2-0 loss against Jordan.
“We didn’t any have problems with the Australia team, we studied their team,” he said. “We studied their strong points and they rely heavily on Tom Rogic and the two wingers. Their physical fitness was the critical factor. There was nothing else special, but they were superior."
“We were not able to fight for the whole 90 minutes because of the fitness factor, so we were dealing with the match in parts. Unfortunately we lost because of individual mistakes and the fitness of their players.
“We tried to manage the game to present a good image of the team and the last minute of the game was so critical for the Australians.”
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