Injuries unravelled Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup plans. Picture: Getty Images
Injuries unravelled Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup plans. Picture: Getty Images

How Arnold’s key Asian Cup plan unravelled

Graham Arnold has bemoaned the loss of injured stars Martin Boyle and Daniel Arzani, admitting the attacking pair were his main Asian Cup weapons.

The Socceroos coach was banking on the creativity of both in the United Arab Emirates, viewing them as primary cogs in his interchangeable front three.

But the plan came partly undone when 20-year-old sensation Arzani ruptured his ACL in November, and unravelled further at the turn of the new year when fellow winger Boyle, recruited specifically by Arnold, hurt his knee.

Hibernian confirmed their Scottish-born 25-year-old had undergone surgery and will likely miss the rest of the season.

"I don't want to reflect too much on it, but Martin was one of the keys to this tournament," Arnold said.

"Him and young Daniel Arzani, because of their individual quality they have in a one-v-one situation against teams that play with a packed defence.

"Martin had the operation last night, Martin is recovering. We've been in touch with him, he's in good spirits.

"We expect him to have a great recovery at Hibs and we'll see him back with the Socceroos soon."

The silver lining is that Boyle, at least, should be fit for Australia's first round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers later in the year.

Martin Boyle was set to play a key role in Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup plans. Picture: Getty Images
Martin Boyle was set to play a key role in Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup plans. Picture: Getty Images

 

For now, though, the Socceroos must continue to make do without them, and will play Palestine tonight without Mat Leckie (hamstring), Andrew Nabbout and Josh Risdon (both groin), though Tom Rogic (broken hand) has been cleared to play.

As it stands, the best Australia can hope for is a second-place finish in Group B.

Jordan, who shocked Australia 1-0 last week, have all but assured they'll finish top of Group B after beating Syria 2-0 on Thursday - a result that led to the almost immediate sacking of Syria coach Bernd Stange.

Only Palestine can overtake them, though they must beat both the Socceroos and Jordan to do so.

The Socceroos' failure to finish top may not necessarily be a bad thing, given it would steer them away from a quarter-final encounter with Japan.

 

Tom Rogic has been cleared to play in Australia’s clash with Palestine. Picture: AP
Tom Rogic has been cleared to play in Australia’s clash with Palestine. Picture: AP

 

Finish second and they'll play a round-of-16 match against the runners-up of Group F, at this stage likely Oman or Uzbekistan, then follow a path down the easier side of the draw.

First, though, they must beat Palestine.

Arnold expected to face an "aggressive" side but backed the Socceroos' physicality to handle it.

Captain Mark Milligan said he'd seen signs the disastrous first game was behind them.

"The morale's been good. We're still very confident in what we're doing and the way that we do it," Milligan said.

"The good thing about this group is we don't necessarily need to be told where we fell short.

"Everybody is very aware of the situation and very keen to get back onto the field and turn it around.

"The great thing about football is when we go out tomorrow night and put in a good performance, the first game will be a distant memory and we'll move forward."

News Corp Australia


$60bn plan to beat southeast gridlock

premium_icon $60bn plan to beat southeast gridlock

Tunnels, fast rail networks, river crossings, highway upgrades

How 15 minutes of exercise can beat blues

premium_icon How 15 minutes of exercise can beat blues

“It started with making conscious decision to want to feel better."