Danny Vukovic’s stint in Genk’s Europa League clash with Slavia Praha came to an unfortunate end in just the 53rd minute.
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The Socceroos and Uzbekistan will clash on 22 January at 1am AEDT at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium for a chance to meet either the United Arab Emirates or Kyrgyzstan in the quarter-final.
Australia had a very rocky start to the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Jordan, who have ended up at the top of Group B. The Roos then clawed back some pride with a clinical 3-0 win over Palestine and a 3-2 win over Syria thanks to a 90th-minute winner from Tom Rogic. They finished second in the group with six points.
Key player: Chris Ikonomidis
Ikonomidis has been outstanding for Australia with four assists and one goal, and there’s been only one goal for the whole tournament he’s not been involved in. He’s been put at striker and attacking midfield for the Glory but has played on the wing for Australia.
If he is taken out of the game by the fullback from Uzbekistan, we are in deep trouble. Ikonomidis is our best crosser and linker, and by taking him out they would have to make Awer Mabil take on that job when Mabil is more of the ‘faster goalscorer’-type player.
Where they will win
With through balls and getting into space. Four of Australia’s six goals have came from through balls. In the 4-2-3-1 formation you’ve got three attacking midfielders, of which two are out wide, meaning one of the two wide midfielders can came in while one can stay put. Awer Mabil and Chris Ikonomidis are great at getting into space, while Tom Rogic and Ikonomidis are great at playing through balls. If we can continue that, we will be unstoppable.
Where they will lose
Underestimation. The Socceroos have a long history of underestimating teams. Of our two games against Thailand in the World Cup qualifiers, one was a draw and another was a 2-1 win. There was the opening game of the 2015 Asian Cup in which we conceded first to Oman but then won 4-1. But the underestimation that may haunt us forever is the 1-0 loss to Jordan in the opening match of this Asian Cup. We don’t want this to happen again.
GK: Matthew Ryan
LB: Aziz Behich
CB: Trent Sainsbury
CB: Milos Degenek
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Mark Milligan
CDM: Jackson Irvine
LM: Chris Ikonomidis
CAM: Tom Rogic
RM: Awer Mabil
ST: Jamie Maclaren
The game against Palestine was the best for Australia, so why change it from there? Trent Sainsbury will return from suspension, so he will come in for Massimo Luongo, and Mark Milligan will go back into CDM. I don’t think the formation should change at all.
Uzbekistan started the tournament with a 2-1 win over Oman and then thrashed Turkmenistan 4-0. They finished the group stage with a 2-1 loss to Japan. Like the Socceroos, they finished second in their group (Group F) on six points.
Key player: Odil Ahmedov
I don’t know a lot about Uzbekistan, but I know Odil Ahmedov. He is a midfielder who has scored 18 goals in 92 games for his country and is known for his tough tackling and long shots, which is a great asset to any team.
Where they will win: Speed
Speed, I am speed. In their game against Turkmenistan all of their four goals came from players making runs that probably wouldn’t have been goals if the players weren’t fast enough. They will need to be on the jets again if they want to win this game.
Where they will lose: On paper
Let’s be realistic: Australia is just way better on paper. I have to basically start from scratch learning about this team. Not a single player from Uzbekistan plays in any of the top five European leagues or the leagues below those five leagues. But that could work in their favour as the Socceroos wouldn’t know much about them either. It probably won’t, though.
GK: Ignatiy Nesterov
LB: Egor Krimets
CB: Farrux Sayfiyev
CB: Davronbek Khashimov
RB: Islom Tukhtakhujaev
CDM: Dostonbek Khamdamov
CDM: Ikram Alibaev
LM: Sidikov Javokhir
CAM: Otabek Shukurov
RM: Fozil Musaev
ST: Eldor Shomurodov
I always thought that playing the same formation as your opponent would favour the team with the better players, but it didn’t seem like that in the game against Japan. I see them starting the same squad as the last game.
Prediction: 2-0 Socceroos
Australia has to win. There’s too much pressure on the team – and on Graham Arnold.