It’s been glossed over in the aftermath of the Socceroos’ penalty-shootout win over Uzbekistan, but Graham Arnold needs to find a Tom Rogic replacement for the Asian Cup quarter-final against the UAE.
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Australia’s Asian Cup defence is on the ropes with Tom Rogic, Andrew Nabbout and Josh Risdon all battling injury heading into Friday’s crunch clash with Palestine.
Rogic, wearing a bandage on his left hand, only lightly training in the Socceroos’ session in Dubai after breaking a bone in his hand during Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Jordan in Al Ain.
The Celtic star is expected to still play against Palestine only ran laps in running shoes away from the main group before leaving training early.
Assistant coach Rene Meulensteen says the results of an assessment undertaken by a specialist in Dubai on Monday will determine Rogic’s availability.
“Every player’s health is paramount to everything,” Meulensteen said.
“I think there is a few scenarios they’re looking at at the moment so we’ll have to get the full scale of what we’ve got to do with that one … when he’s got the ultimate results of whether he can keep playing or not.”
Striker Nabbout and fullback Risdon are both struggling with groin complaints.
Nabbout undertook running drills alongside hamstrung forward Mathew Leckie on Tuesday and appears to be recovering well from the groin injury picked up on the eve of the Jordan clash.
Risdon’s hopes of recovering in time for Friday’s match look less encouraging with the Western Sydney Wanderer sitting out the entire training session.
“I don’t think he’ll be fit,” Meulensteen said.
“He over-stretched himself in the abdominal area and these are very bad injuries that you can’t really do anything about.
“You can’t inject them or tape them or whatever it is. He’s going to need review but again, I think he’ll be a doubt for Palestine.”
Injuries have been a constant theme throughout the build-up to Australia’s Asian Cup defence.
Aaron Mooy, Daniel Arzani and Martin Boyle were all ruled out before the tournament started while Leckie remains unavailable as he recovers from a hamstring tear.
With Leckie sidelined, if Nabbout, Rogic and Risdon are ruled out of Friday’s match it will leave Graham Arnold with just 16 fit outfield players to select his starting XI from.
Jamie Maclaren replaced Nabbout for the Jordan match and is likely to start again if the 29-year-old is still unfit while Rhyan Grant will almost certainly replace Risdon at right back.
Rogic’s absence would likely open the door to Jackson Irvine, who looked bright off the bench in the Jordan game.
Whatever lineup Australia go with, Meulensteen was in no doubt about the importance of the Palestine clash.
The minnows secured their first Asian Cup point in their second tournament appearance on Sunday by holding Syria to a 0-0 draw in Sharjah.
“In many ways the next game is a final already,” Meulensteen said.
“Obviously there’s different ways but that’s how we need to treat it … I’m without a shadow of a doubt convinced that the players know it and are aware of it.”