Asian Cup: Socceroos intent on making statement against India

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has demanded a performance worthy of a legitimate Asian Cup contender when Australia opens its tournament campaign against minnows India on Saturday night.

But there was no confirmation on whether skipper and captain Mat Ryan, who continues to wear a mask at training to protect the cheekbone he fractured last month, would start the match despite having trained fully in the lead-up to the game.

While Arnold dubbed his side’s 2-0 friendly win last weekend over Bahrain as the “perfect” preparation for Asian Cup, he wants more boldness, class and energy shown by the Socceroos in their opening Group B match at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar

“I want to see some more individual quality one-v-one situations,” Arnold said.

“Those ones can change the game, and I think that we do have the players here … that have great one-v-one actions, and individual quality, and I want to see that.”

Arnold mentioned the likes of attacking weapons Martin Boyle, Sammy Silvers, Marco Tilio and Craig Goodwin, midfielder Riley McGree and left-back Jordan Bos as the Socceroos’ potential game-breakers.

“Yes, the tactical side is very important and we’ll get that right, but also it’s down to the individual mentally to be prepared to go out there and put on his best performance, and that’s what I expect,” Arnold said.

The national coach has been particularly in the ear of Middlesbrough star McGree, who returned to international duty via the bench against Bahrain after being sidelined for several weeks with a foot injury he suffered in early October.

“Something that I’m pushing at Riley and talking to him about is getting in positions in the box to score because I do believe he has that quality to score goals,” Arnold said.

“Once he gets that into his game, you’ll see him go to a high level of potentially club football as well.

“Riley’s fit, and he’s ready to go. If anything, this is in a positive way, that injury that he had gave him a bit of a break, and he’s freshened up and he looks fantastic.”

Whether McGree has done enough to start against India is uncertain, with the Socceroos having plenty of midfield depth.

Arnold wouldn’t commit on Ryan taking his place in goal despite being full recovered from his fractured cheekbone, unwilling to reveal his starting side.

“Maty’s training back fully. He’s training very well. All the boys are fit, healthy and ready,” he said.

“I can’t give you the starting line-up at the moment.”

Arnold said the Socceroos would again strive to be lethal from set pieces, particularly from Goodwin’s delivery of free-kicks and corners to giant central defenders Harry Souttar and Cameron Burgess.

“It is very important … we get our set pieces right, because set pieces can change the game as well,” he said.

“We’re working on all those patterns and working on finishing, getting players in those positions to put the ball in the back of the net.

“It’s important that we’re patient and we stick to what we’re good at, and that’s retaining the ball and moving ball quickly

“We’re here to win seven games, and obviously our expectations are high.”

Australia v India

Saturday, 10.30pm (AEDT)

Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

Broadcast: Network 10

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