LONDON: Australia’s victory over Palestine is just the start, the Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has warned.
Having lost their Group B opener 1-0 to Jordan, the defending champions went into the match with several question marks hanging over them. That result was the tournament’s first shock and left many wondering whether the Aussies would fail to get out of the group and so suffer an embarrassing early exit. But after the Jordan setback Arnold promised his side would learn from the defeat, move on and improve, and on the evidence of the 90 minutes in Dubai against the Palestinians his guarantee was as strong as the performance.
Goals from Hibernian striker Jamie Maclaren, Awer Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou banished memories of the shock Jordan defeat and moved the Socceroos to second in the group behind their first-match conquerors.
Having secured their first points of the tournament Arnold then issued a warning to Australia’s rivals claiming there was a lot more to come from his team.
“As I said after the Jordan game, when you lose, you learn,” the Socceroos coach explained.
“And we learned a lot from that day We went onto the training pitch, we worked hard to fix the issues if the opponents play defensively.
“We’ll get better and better as we go. There have been a lot of changes in the team, a lot of changes, so we’re a new team and will still grow.”
Australia did indeed arrive in the UAE with several familiar faces missing either through retirement (Tim Cahill) or injury (Aaron Mooy). So perhaps it is no shock, with hindsight, that they started slowly and with a loss to Jordan. But having got that vital first win under their belts they still have to get a result against Syria to ensure progression.
While the Syrians seem in disarray, having taken just one point form their two matches and subsequently sacked coach Bernd Stange, Arnold is all too aware that the side possess some fine players and are more than capable of beating his Socceroos.
“Now it’s all about the Syria game,” Arnold said.
“This will be a difficult game. We know them well having played against them in the World Cup qualifier.
“We’ll go back to the training field, we’ll recover well and we’ll go out for the Syria game with all guns blazing, expecting to win.”
Against Palestine Arnold dropped the under-performing Massimo Luongo and Robbie Kruse in favor of Jackson Irvine and Chris Ikonomidis, who impressed as substitutes against Jordan.
And it was a far more dynamic team that opened their account on 18 minutes, when Celtic’s Tom Rogic picked out Maclaren, who scored his first international goal with a glancing header.
Two minutes later and the Socceroos were 2-0 up as Ikonomidis lofted a ball to the far post, where Mabil sneaked in unmarked for a first-time finish.
Substitute striker Giannou made the final scoreline reflect Australia’s dominance, nodding a third for Australia in the final minute.