Socceroos’ round of 16 opponent confirmed and it’s a breath of fresh air for Irvine
The Socceroos will play Indonesia in the Asian Cup round-of-16, with the daunting prospect of either South Korea or Saudi Arabia awaiting if they reach the quarter-finals.
Australia and Indonesia will meet for the first time since the Socceroos claimed a 1-0 Asian Cup qualifying win in Brisbane in 2010 – making the world No.146 a fresh challenge for Graham Arnold’s current charges.
The match will be played on Sunday at 10.30pm AEDT.
“It’s really exciting, obviously, to have a new opponent in Asia,” midfielder Jackson Irvine told AAP.
“Over the last Asian Cup, obviously in 2019, we had Syria, Palestine, Uzbekistan.
“It’s nice to play against different new teams, new opponents, totally different kinds of football and it’ll be really exciting. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Claiming top spot in group B gave the Socceroos the nominally easier path of facing one of the best third-placed teams in Doha.
Until Kyrgyzstan scored an 80th-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with Oman on Thursday, knocking their opponents out of contention to progress, Australia had appeared destined to play Palestine.
Indonesia qualified with three points from a difficult group that included Iraq, Japan and Vietnam, scoring in all three games, with their win over Vietnam proving enough to seal progression.
They joined Palestine, Syria and Jordan (all four points) as the best third-placed finishers, with Oman (two points) eliminated.
“I’ve watched most of the games along the way, and they’ve done really well,” Irvine said.
“We’re expecting a difficult game as always against a team that’s shown they’re capable of scoring.”
If Australia does get through, a heady task awaits in the quarter-final against either world No.23 South Korea or world No.53 Saudi Arabia.
“It’s that old saying – if you want to win, you’ve got to beat the best,” defender Harry Souttar told AAP.
“But we’re not looking past Indonesia at all.”
South Korea have struggled to impress under Jurgen Klinsmann and a shock, dramatic 3-3 draw with Malaysia resulted in a second-place finish in group E, behind Bahrain.
But they have plenty of talent, headlined by Tottenham star Son Heung-min, who pleaded with fans and the media to cool their criticism.
“I would like to ask for a favour … to protect the players during the tournament and just to help the team. It is really sad, it really hurts a lot in the locker room,” he told reporters.
“Some of the boys are being criticised or receiving comments that at times cross the line a little. It really hurts as a teammate. It really hurts to see these boys in pain and also getting this criticism.
“We are working very hard on the pitch.
“We are trying to give everything for the fans, for the country … Please protect the players, my team mates and the team.”
Klinsmann’s charges will face Roberto Mancini’s Saudis, who topped group F after a 0-0 draw with second-placed Thailand in their final match.
Tajikistan-United Arab Emirates and Iraq-Jordan are the other round-of-16 clashes on Australia’s side of the draw.
ASIAN CUP ROUND-OF-16 DRAW
* Australia v Indonesia
* Tajikistan v United Arab Emirates
* Iraq v Jordan
* Qatar v Palestine
* Uzbekistan v Thailand
* Saudia Arabia v South Korea
* Bahrain v Japan
* Iran v Syria
Klinsmann defends team against accusations
South Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann says his side did not deliberately finish second in their Asian Cup group to avoid a titanic clash with Japan, and insisted he was angry with their 3-3 draw against Malaysia.
Malaysia came away with an equaliser in the 15th minute of added time on Thursday which meant Bahrain could finish top with a 1-0 win over Jordan.
“We didn’t want to avoid Japan, it definitely wasn’t our plan to concede three goals today. We wanted to go through in first place, that was our goal,” Klinsmann told reporters.
“Malaysia played with a lot of heart and you have to give them credit but we should have won this game.”
Bahrain topped group E with six points thanks to an Abdulla Yusuf Helal winner while South Korea finished with five points.
Jordan finished third with four points and also went through as one of the best third-placed teams.
South Korea opened the scoring in the 21st minute when Jeong Woo-Yeong headed home from a corner. The goal was initially not awarded as Malaysia keeper Syihan Hazmi clawed the ball out of the air before VAR confirmed it had crossed the line.
Faisal Halim twisted and turned in the box to score from a tight angle to equalise and Malaysia then went ahead from the penalty spot through Arif Aiman.
But the game had late drama when Lee Kang-in restored parity in the 83rd minute when his free kick into the top corner went in off the woodwork after Hazmi attempted a save, with the strike going down as an own goal.
South Korea won a penalty in injury time with another VAR check after the referee deemed Oh Hyeon-Gyu to have been fouled when he was sandwiched between two defenders while vying for the ball, with Son Heung-min finding the bottom corner from the spot.
But with virtually the last kick of the game in the 15th minute of stoppage time, Romel Morales equalised at the other end to spark wild celebrations among the Malaysian fans behind the goal.
Roberto Mancini is aiming for his second major international title after leading Italy to European Championship triumph in 2021.
His Saudi Arabian team drew 0-0 with Thailand at Education City Stadium and advanced as Group F winners with an unbeaten record, while Thailand advanced as runners-up.
Abdullah Radif had the chance to make it three wins out of three for Mancini’s team, but his 12th-minute penalty was saved by Thailand goalkeeper Saranon Anuin.
A late goal ended Oman’s hopes of advancing after a 1-1 draw with Kyrgyzstan at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.
Indonesia, on three points in Group D, advanced as the fourth-best third-placed team, and will face Graham Arnold’s Socceroos in the last-16.