The Socceroos will play in next year’s Copa America, in what could be Argentina legend Lionel Messi’s international swansong.
Australia prevailed in a penalty shootout after drawing 0-0 with Uzbekistan. Here are five takeaways from the game.
* LECKIE GAMBLE HAS PAID OFF
Australia took a punt on Mathew Leckie recovering from a hamstring injury suffered before the tournament in time to play some role at the Asian Cup. If nothing else, the 27-year-old has fired the Socceroos into the last eight with the winning penalty of the shootout against Uzbekistan on Monday.
* ROGIC WILL BE MISSED
Almost lost amongst the drama of Australia’s penalty shootout win is the realisation Tom Rogic will be suspended for the quarter-final after receiving his second yellow card of the tournament for an innocuous challenge in the 20th minute of the match. The Celtic star is a key cog in Graham Arnold’s attacking plans and will be missed in Friday’s match.
* GIANNOU IS PUSHING FOR A START
Aposotolos Giannou is on a path from injury replacement call-up to starting player after Jamie Maclaren struggled to make an impact against a packed Uzbek defence. Giannou offers a physical edge that Maclaren just doesn’t have but is more than just a one-dimensional target man. Expect the Cyprus-based forward to be given the nod for the quarter-final.
* RYAN IS A HUGE ASSET
Three cheers for Mat Ryan. The Brighton goalkeeper held firm in the big moments of the shootout to be the hero of the day for the Socceroos. His first save from Islom Tukhtakhujaev was about waiting out the Uzbekistan defender and staying big when he belted his penalty down the middle. He then gave Leckie the chance to be the hero with a diving effort to deny substitute Marat Bikmaev.
* AUSTRALIA MUST FIND A WAY TO UNLOCK DEFENCES
Uzbekistan held firm, often putting six players in the backline, and Australia lacked the creativity to break them down. It was a similar issue to their defeat to Jordan in their opening group match. With either the UAE or Kyrgyzstan likely to adopt a similar approach in the quarter-final, Australia must find a way through if they want to avoid more penalty shootout dramatics.