Australia coach Graham Arnold is confident there is nothing new Syria boss Fajr Ibrahim can do to catch the Socceroos by surprise in their crucial 2019 Asian Cup Group B encounter on Tuesday.
Syria sacked Bernd Stange following Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Jordan, appointing Ibrahim for a fourth term at the helm shortly after.
Ibrahim takes over ahead of their final group game at the tournament, with Syria – who are yet to score – in danger of bowing out.
By contrast, defending champions Australia need just a point to make sure of progression, having responded to their shock opening defeat to Jordan by beating Palestine 3-0.
Syria will be hoping a change of coach can inspire an improvement in their fortunes, but Arnold doubts there is much Ibrahim can alter in such a short period of time.
When asked if their opponents could spring a few surprises, Arnold said: “If he was allowed to replace 23 players, but we know all their players. We do that much analysis.
“We’ve got a great analysis team. We know their strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of day, it’s a short time in charge for him to change too much.
“The whole focus for us is on ourselves. As I said to [the players] before the video session [on Monday], I can show you clips of Syria and it’s all down to the small details.
“It’s all about mentality, it’s all about attitude, it’s all about going on the pitch knowing you’re playing for your country, but also for your team-mates.”
— Socceroos (@Socceroos) January 14, 2019
Syria will be out for retribution after Australia defeated them in the World Cup qualifying play-offs in October 2017.
The Socceroos squeezed through on that occasion, winning 3-2 on aggregate after extra time in the second leg – Tim Cahill ultimately getting the crucial goal.
Ibrahim agrees with Arnold that there is little impact he can make tactically after limited time working with the squad.
“Of course, there is very little you could do tactically and physically at this point,” he told Al Kass. “So, it’s all about the mental and psychological side for me.
“There are no secrets in football, we have seen Australia and they saw us play, so it’s down to getting the most out of your players.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Australia – Awer Mabil
A box of tricks out on the flank, Mabil was a standout performer in the 3-0 win over Palestine, scoring Australia’s second and generally impressing. Syria cannot afford to sit back on Tuesday, meaning the extra space could play right into Mabil’s hands.
Syria – Omar Al Soma
A victory is a must for Syria, so they need to get on the scoresheet. Al Soma is their biggest threat from that perspective, with the physical forward a prolific scorer at club level in Saudi Arabia with Al Ahli.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first encounter at the Asian Cup between Australia and Syria.
– Australia have conceded just 11 goals in 18 Asian Cup games, and only on one occasion have they let in more than one in a single game (3-1 defeat to Iraq in 2007).
– Syria have failed to score in two successive Asian Cup games. They have never a barren run of three consecutive matches in the competition.
– Omar Al Soma has scored the only two goals for Syria in their previous two competitive meetings with Australia, but he did not end on the winning team on either occasion (one loss, one draw).
– Syria are yet to score a goal in the 2019 Asian Cup, despite their players attempting the most shots in both of their matches so far; Al Soma had six efforts against Palestine, and Omar Khrbin had the same number of attempts against Jordan.
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