Australia, UAE eye spots in knockout phase of AFC Asian Cup

Australia, UAE eye spots in knockout phase of AFC Asian Cup

QLNews
By QLNews

Australia, who hosted and won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, and the UAE, who hosted the quadrennial tournament in 2019, will be eyeing a place in the knockout stages as they take the ground on Thursday.

Australia, who won their opening game against India 2-0, will be keen to leave nothing to chance and qualify for the knockout phase with a game to spare. Uzbekistan, who drew 0-0 with Syria in their opener, and India will play hard to open their account in the tournament.  

UAE, who had started the tournament with a 3-1 win over Hong Kong, will be keen to repeat the show against Palestine, who lost 1-4 against Iran, and qualify for the round of 16.

Here is a look at how the matches are poised today.  

GROUP B
SYRIA VS AUSTRALIA

Kick-off: 2:30PM
Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium

Syria head coach Hector Cuper has denied he will take a defensive approach in his team’s Group B clash with Australia on Thursday as the West Asians look to pick up their first win of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

The Argentinian’s team were held to a 0-0 draw by Uzbekistan in their opening game on Saturday, having failed to register a single shot on target at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium against Cuper’s former employers. 

But while the meeting with Graham Arnold’s side represents another demanding test for the Qasioun Eagles, Cuper stressed he will not be setting up his team to look for another point.

“I’ve never seen a coach play a match to draw, in any match we play to win. That’s the aim in football,” said the former Valencia, Inter Milan and Uzbekistan coach.

“Some might say the Australians are stronger, but that’s on paper. On the pitch, anything is possible. This is what I’m telling my players, this is what we prepare for,” he added.

The Syrians are still looking for their first win at the AFC Asian Cup since 2011, with the nation going through the tournaments in 2015 Australia and 2019 UAE without victory.

Arnold, meanwhile, declared he has a full squad available with him.

“We looked at Syria in World Cup qualifying and the friendly against China. We watched them against Uzbekistan and Japan, when they lost 0-5. We know everything about the Syrian players and team,” he said.

“We’ve done our homework. We’re expecting a physical game, and we’ll be ready. We’ve watched Syria, and we know they’ve got some strengths. But it’s about us tidying up the things that didn’t work against India and making sure we’re ready mentally for the game,” he added.

GROUP B
INDIA VS UZBEKISTAN

Kick-off: 5:30pm
Venue: Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

Srecko Katanec wants his Uzbek players to not hold back when they take on India at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Uzbekistan are third in standings following their 0-0 draw against Syria, behind Australia and Syria.

“Normally when you’re playing a stronger team on paper, it’s logical that the game will be tough for you,” said Katanec, in reference to India head coach Igor Stimac’s assessment about Uzbekistan.

“We’ll try to do something on the field, but the game will be completely different. They’re strong and aggressive and we’ve to find spaces and do our best,” he added.

Stimac, meanwhile, is set to field a reshuffled line-up as India look to revive their campaign.

“It’s another crucial game for us. The match against Australia was fantastic, and I believe the lessons learned from that encounter will significantly benefit our future performances,” said Stimac. 

“Uzbekistan are a formidable team, they’re a highly technical side and tough opponents. Their players, particularly those in Eastern Europe, bring both experience and youthful energy. We are anticipating early pressure from them, and it's crucial for us to be compact, vocal, and have a clear strategy for advancing into the final third and being effective there. We need to find a way to navigate through their strengths and capitalize on opportunities.

“Our mindset is geared towards winning, always maintaining a winning mentality. Our boys are ready, and I hope we create more opportunities than what we experienced in the first game.”

GROUP C
PALESTINE VS UAE

Kick-off: 8:30PM
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium

According to UAE head coach Paulo Bento, Palestine’s physical and direct approach will pose a challenge to the UAE when the two teams face off in Group C.

The Portuguese coach, who had previously led South Korea to the quarterfinals in 2019, started his continental adventure with the Whites with a 3-1 win over Hong Kong. Adding three more points could be all that is needed to secure a place in the next stage.

In the absence of all-time top scorer Ali Mabkhout — who was left on the bench on Sunday — youngsters Sultan Adil and Zayed Sultan as well as Yahya Al Ghassani assumed scoring duties.

“It’s important we don’t think too much about what we did, but about what we can reach. We’re expecting a balanced game, a difficult game against a good opponent,” said Bento.

Palestine’s opening game started on the wrong foot as they found themselves behind after just 70 seconds against Iran. Their head coach Makram Daboub is determined to ensure his side learn from their mistakes when they face UAE.

“This match will be the key to being able to progress to the next round. The most important lesson we learned from the first game is to be focused from the start. We lost our concentration for a moment early on, and they scored the goal that changed everything. Fortunately, this was in the first match against the strongest team in the group,” said Daboub.

Tamer Seyam’s header late in the first half was Palestine’s first goal in the AFC Asian Cup since 2015, but it did little to soften the blow of the 4-1 defeat which has Daboub’s side sitting bottom of the group on goal difference behind Hong Kong.

“I think we’ve the same chances as UAE and Hong Kong. There’re still six points to play for. Now we focus on trying to win this match and that’ll motivate us to book our place in the round of 16,” he said.

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