If you were caught up in the madness of a very busy weekend of football, where a host of major European leagues swung into action, news of the hat trick scored by Adam Taggart for Suwon Bluewings against Gangwon in South Korea may have slipped by.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold says the return of Mathew Leckie to full training has given his entire squad a boost ahead of Monday’s Asian Cup knockout clash with Uzbekistan.
Leckie, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury for Australia’s three group matches in the UAE, is set to return on the bench in the round-of-16 match in Al Ain.
After having just 16 available outfield players for Tuesday’s dramatic 3-2 win over Syria, Arnold will have almost a full complement to choose from against the White Wolves.
Forward Andrew Nabbout is the only omission as he continues to struggle with a groin injury, as Josh Risdon and Trent Sainsbury return from injury and suspension respectively.
“The wonderful thing is Mathew Leckie is back,” Arnold said at Sunday’s pre-match media conference.
“He will be on the bench.
“It’s like signing a new player.
“Our medical staff have done a great job getting him ready and just the lift that Mathew Leckie – with his positive attitude and the way he is in camp and the way he is around the boys – you can see it’s given the boys a lift this week already.”
Uzbekistan coach Hector Cuper says his team are ready to prove their doubters wrong by defeating Australia for the first time.
In three previous encounters between the two nations, Australia are yet to concede a goal and had thrashed the Uzbeks 6-0 in their last encounter – a 2011 Asian Cup semi-final in Qatar.
“We know the importance of tomorrow’s game. It’s already knockout stage – it’s not the group stage and there is no right to make errors,” the veteran Argentine said.
“We will come to the pitch to get the result, to get the victory and, at the same time, we realise that Australia is a really tough opponent, tough rival and one of the best teams in Asia.”
Monday’s game kicks off at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium from 6pm (Tuesday 0100 AEDT).