Coach Graham Arnold rejects suggestions Uzbekistan have given Asian Cup quarter-final opponents United Arab Emirates a template to beat the Socceroos.
A frustrated Australia could not find their way through Uzbekistan’s “brick wall”, running out of options and resorting to long balls in extra-time before finally scraping past the round of 16 on penalties thanks to Mat Ryan’s heroics.
The approach of Hector Cuper’s well-drilled central Asian nation disrupted the Socceroos’ rhythm in such a way the UAE might want to take note, after the host nation defeated Kyrgyzstan 3-2 hours later off a questionable extra-time penalty to seal their date with the defending champions.
But Arnold insisted his side had more tricks in the book than what was on show on Monday night, a step backwards after such encouraging signs against Palestine and Syria.
“No, not at all,” Arnold said.
“Palestine played that way and so did Syria, if you get a goal in the first 20 minutes it’s a totally different game.
“What was important for us was we were patient, we didn’t lose our head by not being able to break down the brick wall.
“We at least kept the clean sheet. While you keep the clean sheet you’re still in the game.”
Arnold admitted to “struggling with the final pass” in a match where Australia had 60 per cent possession and 17 shots to seven including nine on target.
But his citing of his team’s 909 passes – nearly double that of the Uzbeks – as a sign of promise did not tell the whole story of a match in which their ball movement was often slow and their possession futile.
“It’s something with a completely different style of play that the boys are playing compared to what they’ve done in the past, that it will take time for this to eventually happen,” he said.
“We’ve showed it in glimpses but, as I said, Uzbekistan made it difficult for us. Our rotations were great. We had a record passes of about 930 passes – obviously it’s not about just that possession but it’s about creating those opportunities and making those opportunities.
“You have to give credit to Uzbekistan and we will learn from this and move forward … one good thing is we don’t have to travel. We’re here in Al Ain, they have to travel down here.
“The main focus for us is now just to recover after 120 minutes, look at how players have pulled up.
“Obviously Tomi Rogic is out suspended but we have a number of options and, you know, we will see how the players are and how they pull up tomorrow.”
Mat Leckie was a genuine spark when he returned from injury off the bench for what he thought was a 20-minute run and turned into nearly an hour counting extra-time.
“With the young frontline that we’ve had with Chrissy and Jamie and Mabil, it was great to get Leckie back,” Arnold said.
“To be honest I was a little bit worried when we went to extra-time, I was expecting Lecks just to play 30 minutes. The fact that he got through 60 shows that he’s probably ready to go even more.
“He came on, did a great job. Their goalkeeper made a great save off Lecks in normal time and he just adds that experience but also that spark when he comes on the field.”
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