Australia to face Indonesia, Tajikistan to battle UAE in Round of 16

Australia to face Indonesia, Tajikistan to battle UAE in Round of 16

QLNews
By QLNews

Australia will hope to continue their unbeaten run in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup as they take on Indonesia in the first Round of 16 match at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Sunday.

Australia, who won the Asian title at home in 2015, have an easy game on paper. Indonesia were the last team to qualify for the Round of 16 and they will likely find the going tough against the Australians.

The UAE, who hosted the tournament in 2019 and were semifinalists in that edition, will face tournament debutants Tajikistan, who have had a dream run to the knockout stages.

The two teams have promised to bring their best to the table, and it promises to be a breath-taking affair.    

AUSTRALIA VS INDONESIA

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium

Graham Arnold gave his Australia squad a clean bill of health ahead of the Socceroos’ Round of 16 clash with Indonesia, with striker Mitchell Duke available for selection.

Duke missed the 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan in the last round of Group B games on Tuesday due to a hamstring strain, but Arnold confirmed the Machida Zelvia forward would be available for his side’s opening match of the knockout rounds.

“He’s training fully today,” Arnold said of Duke, while Craig Goodwin has also recovered from a minor knee injury.

“There was a slight strain in his hamstring. He’s available for selection, which is the main thing. We’ve got a few players in that position to think about, and we’re just making sure he’s ready to go. Everyone else is 100 percent fit.”

Australia and Indonesia will be meeting at the AFC Asian Cup for the first time and have not faced off against one another since a qualifier for the 2011 tournament in Brisbane in 2010, which the Socceroos won through a solitary goal from Mark Milligan.

Arnold’s team will go into the game as favourites, but the former Sydney FC coach is wary of Shin Tae-yong’s side after their performances in the group phase, where the Indonesians notched up a 1-0 win over Vietnam.

“Indonesia have shown what the competition is about and the strength of the competition. Every time we go on the pitch and prepare for a game, we prepare for a tough game, and we expect that tomorrow,” said Arnold.

Indonesia will be appearing in the knockout rounds of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time with the country making their first appearance since 2007, and coach Shin acknowledged the difficulties his side will face against a team 121 places higher in world rankings.

“The match is never going to be easy for us, especially because Australia is one of the strongest teams in the Asian Cup,” said the former South Korean international, who finished his playing career with A-League side Queensland Roar.

“They’ve got strength and power, and I think in those aspects Australia is probably the strongest in this competition. We’re going to play with a strong mentality. We’ll never give up. We’re going to focus on the match until the referee blows the whistle after 90 minutes. We aren’t going to have any regrets and we’re going to do our best.”

TAJIKISTAN VS UAE

Venue: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
Kick-off: 7:00pm

Tajikistan may have sealed knockout stage qualification in their debut AFC Asian Cup campaign, but head coach Petar Segrt said the Central Asian side are not satisfied just yet.

If anything, advancing to the Round of 16 has made Tajikistan even hungrier and, more importantly, placed them on an equal footing with the UAE — who they meet on Sunday. 

“The buzz around our historic win is now a thing of the past and I don’t want the players to feel that kind of pressure with every match. Now, we’re no longer a lesser team and whether our match against the UAE lasts 90 minutes or 120, I’ve full faith in my team and know they’re going to give their best,” said Segrt.

The Croatian said Tajikistan will face the UAE confident of winning, having played a goalless draw with the 1996 AFC Asian Cup runners-up last year. 

“We met UAE not so long ago and held them to a 0-0 draw, but that was a friendly and they’ve changed a lot since then. However, the same holds true for Tajikistan. We’ll fight till the last minute and make the time away from our families count,” he said.

UAE head coach Paulo Bento acknowledged the threat posed by the Crowns and agreed with Segrt on the two teams being equally capable of achieving victory.

“It’d be a big mistake to take Tajikistan lightly after all they’ve done in the competition so far,” said Bento. “They’re very good at building their game from the back and have also displayed a good offensive approach, so I’m certain that they’ll demand a lot from our team,” he said.

“We’re at the stage of the competition where we don’t get a do-over and thus, we’re going to have to avoid giving into Tajikistan’s strong points. We aren’t considering ourselves favourites and will need to perfect several aspects of our game to come out superior,” he added.

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