AFC Asian Cup 2019, Team Preview: Australia
Defending Champions Australia, competing in their fourth Asian Cup, are the second most superior team in Asia with a World ranking of 41. The Socceroos find themselves in Group B with middle-eastern teams Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.
Australia has been extremely successful since their entry into the Asian Cup in 2007. Though they got knocked out by Japan in the 2007 quarter-finals on penalties, they ended runners-up to Japan in 2011 and won the 2015 edition at home overcoming South Korea 2-1 in extra-time.
They lost their only encounter against South Korea in the group stages in the previous edition after winning the rest of their matches with a comfortable scoreline.
In three appearances at the AFC Asian Cup, they have played 16 matches to win ten of their games, with three draws and three losses. With a 63% win percentage at the Asian Championships, they would look to defend the title they won in 2015.
Tim Cahill scored three goals to become Australia’s leading scorer in the 2015 edition with Massimo Luongo and Mathew Ryan taking home the Player of the Tournament and the Golden Glove award, respectively. Trent Sainsbury joined the likes of Cahill, Luongo, and Ryan to represent the team of the Tournament.
The Socceroos had a thorny 2018 FIFA World Cup where they lost both their encounters against Peru and eventual Champions France. Their only solace remains their draw against Denmark at Samara.
In ten international matches this year, they have won four encounters, with their most significant victory coming against the Czech Republic in June. In the lead-up to the Asian Cup, they have secured comprehensive victories over Kuwait and Lebanon before holding South Korea to a 1-1 draw in Brisbane last month.
Mathew Ryan won the Golden Glove in the previous edition would look to put in a brilliant performance after making 56 saves for Brighton in the English Premier League this season.
After being signed by Huddersfield in the English Premier League, twenty-eight-year-old Aaron Mooy has come of age for the Aussies. He would be a vital cog for the Socceroos to keep their title with his ability to create a space in the midfield and with a killer instinct to find through passes.
Sunday, 06 January 2019: Australia (41) vs Jordan (135) - Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 16:30 IST.
Friday, 11 January 2019: Australia (41) vs Palestine (100) - Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai at 16:30 IST.
Tuesday, 15 January 2019: Australia (41) vs Syria (88) - Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain at 19:00 IST.
Australia would consider themselves in the driver’s seat against Jordan after handing a 5-1 thrashing in a World Cup Qualification match in 2016. Though they have never played against Palestine, they are unlikely to trouble the strong Oceanic contingent. They might encounter resistance against Syria but still would manage to top their group and secure a place in the knock-outs.
They would face a tough quarter-final against Japan, and a victory would lead them on to Iran in the semis.
Average Age: 26
International Caps: 546
International Goals: 49
Head Coach: Graham Arnold (Australia)
Goalkeepers: Mitchell Langerak (Nagoya Grampus), Mathew Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion), Danny Vukovic (Genk).
Defenders: Aziz Behich (PSV Eindhoven), Milos Degenek (Red Star Belgrade), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg BK), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), Matthew Jurman (Al-Ittihad), Mark Milligan (Captain) (Hibernian), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (PSV Eindhoven).
Midfielders: Mustafa Amini (Aarhus Gymnastikforening), Chris Ikonomidis (Perth Glory), Jackson Irvine (Hull City), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town), Tom Rogic (Celtic).
Strikers: Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum), Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC), Awer Mabil (Midtjylland), Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds).