Mathew Leckie has come off the bench to be Australia’s penalty hero and fire the Socceroos into the Asian Cup quarter-finals.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
He’s talking up his team’s chances but Graham Arnold says his bullish attitude about the Socceroos’ Asian Cup chances is more to do with belief than arrogance.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has defended his bullish attitude about Australia’s Asian Cup chances.
Arnold has been talking up Australia’s hopes of a successful tournament in the United Arab Emirates, starting with repeated comments that he expects his team to beat Jordan in Sunday’s Group B opener in Al Ain.
The 55-year-old denied such bold expectations reflect a level of arrogance from the title holders.
“It’s not arrogance, it’s belief,” Arnold said at Saturday’s pre-match press conference.
“We build belief within the group, and build belief that it’s one game at a time. We’re not focused on any other game other than Jordan, and we believe we can win the game.”
Arnold’s team held one final training session before the match at the impressive Hazza Bin Zayed stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Australia head into the match with two key selection issues to finalise.
Captain Mark Milligan played in central midfield against Oman last weekend in a pre-tournament friendly in Dubai and is likely to retain that position, ensuring Milos Degenak and Trent Sainsbury form the central defence.
Mathew Leckie’s unavailability due to his ongoing hamstring issue will also force Arnold to select either Awer Mabil or Chris Ikonomidis on the right wing.
Arnold was giving nothing away in Saturday’s press conference however, saying only that his final XI will be revealed before kick off.
Australian support is likely to be heavily outnumbered at the Al Ain venue, with locally-based Jordanian expatriates reportedly being given free tickets for the match.
Arnold wasn’t concerned about the potential for a hostile atmosphere upsetting his team or inspiring their opponents.
“I think it’s fantastic that the Jordanians are coming in numbers,” he said.
“One thing we need to remember is that all of our players play in countries around Europe and they play away from home in front of big away crowds. They’re used to it.
“Yes, the Jordanian fans can scream and roar but they can’t affect the result.”
World No.109 Jordan have suffered a setback on the eve of the match with winger Yazan Thalji sent home injured.
The Chivalrous have drafted Ihsan Haddad into their 23-man squad.
Jordan coach Vital Borkelmans took the blow in his stride, saying his team need to face Australia with a positive mindset.
“I’ve told my players to think positive, don’t think negative,” the Belgian said.
“Everything is possible … tomorrow we’ll see how my team is.”
Sunday’s match kicks off at 3pm (2200AEDT).