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Australia's versatility impresses Arnold

Bangkok: Australia head coach Graham Arnold hailed his players for their ability to adapt to tactical changes in their AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 quarter-final win against Syria on Saturday.

Regulation time failed to break the deadlock and it took a moment of magic from substitute Al Hassan Toure in the 102nd minute for the Olyroos to claim a 1-0 victory to advance to their first AFC U23 Championship semi-finals.

Arnold, who also manages the Socceroos, acknowledged the difficulty his side faced and revealed he was forced to make several strategic adjustments through the 120 minutes and praised his players for their ability to adapt.

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“It was a pretty erratic game,” said Arnold. “Both teams were going for the win and we had some good chances and didn’t take them.

“We then had a really good chance and won the game. In this type of conditions, both teams must be congratulated."

#AFCU23 - Q-final: Australia 1-0 Syria (AET)

“When you play against a West Asian team, you have to be ready for their great mentality of working hard, and you have to match that. They played off the second ball and it’s about reading that.

“There were times we didn’t do that well, but as I said, I can’t be happier with the work rate the boys gave.

“I changed the system three times to try and surprise them with a winger, (Trent) Buhagier. These are the types of tactical battles you have in a game, but I’m proud of the boys for being able to change systems during the game.”

The Olyroos are now one win away from reaching the Tokyo Olympics, and will face either Korea Republic or Jordan in the semi-finals.

While he might be delighted with the result, the 56-year-old former Australia international is already looking ahead and has higher expectations on his players.

“They showed wonderful commitment,” said Arnold. “We knew that Syria play a very direct and physical game, and the boys had to be up for the fight, which they were.

“But I know we have a lot to improve on from what we’ve shown. Getting into the semi-finals for the first time ever is a great thing for Australia, but my whole focus is on the next game, and I expect the players to go up another level.”

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