Asian champions land in the UAE ready to defend crown

DUBAI: Defending champions, Australia, touched down in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday and immediately had a training session as they prepare to defend their coveted crown against Asia’s elite in the biggest-ever AFC Asian Cup, which will take place from January 5 to February 1, 2019. The Socceroos have witnessed a period of transition over the last four years after the retirement of arguably one of the country’s greatest-ever player in Tim Cahill and have since appointed a new coach in Graham Arnold.
Despite taking over the reins after the 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia, Arnold is no stranger to the hot seat or the AFC Asian Cup, having been at helm during Australia’s first-ever foray in the Continental showpiece at the 2007 edition. “In 2007, I was the interim coach and I probably didn’t deserve to be in that job and that role at that time, but I have gone away and worked hard in club land and I feel that I deserve the role this time. So, I am really looking forward to the challenges ahead,” said Arnold who is clearly relishing the prospect of returning to the pinnacle stage. “It was our first time in Asia and it was our first time in a major tournament in Asia, so we learnt a lot from it. We learnt that you need to prepare properly, that there are no easy games, that you need to be mentally switched on for every game, and that you need to adapt to the conditions to the style of game that you play,” he added.
Since his last stint, Arnold has enjoyed successful spells with Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC, winning three A-League Premiership titles and results on the international arena following his return has been impressive with early and convincing victories against Lebanon and Kuwait en-route to the UAE.
“In our preparations, we have played against Kuwait and Lebanon who are very similar to the three nations that we have drawn in the group,” added the Socceroos coach, who have been drawn in Group B alongside Jordan, Palestine and Syria.
“The good part of that is that we are playing three teams that play a very similar style. We will do our preparation and our analysis as well, but it is all about us.”
Australia will kick-start their campaign against Jordan on January 6, at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain before travelling to Rashid Stadium in Dubai to face Palestine on January 11. The Socceroos will then reignite their epic contest against Syria, which caught the attention of football fans around the globe during the Fifa World Cup Russia 2018 Play-Off, in their last Group B match on January 15, at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain. — AFC