Australia’s arch-nemesis since joining the Asian Football Confederation, Oman have it all to play for when the two lock horns for the second time in an Asian Cup setting.
Contrasting results on matchday one will not weary Paul Le Guen’s fighting side, who will look to be the stumbling block for the Socceroos they are so adept at being. Shaun Moran assesses their chances of doing so and more.
Oman will play Australia at Stadium Australia on Tuesday January 13 at 8:00pm AEDST.
Played 7: Oman 1 win, Australia 3 wins, 3 draws
Having never played one another until the 2007 Asian Cup, the two teams have built a fascinating rivalry in the last eight years, playing each other seven times. Although the Gulf Nation has only beaten the Socceroos once since the enmity’s commenced, they will be buoyed by the forgoing three encounters that have seen them avoid defeat.
It was only less than two years ago that Australia needed two late goals to evade an embarrassing loss and escape with a point from the very stadium they will play in this time round. Ange Postecoglou will want to ensure that the lessons from such hit outs are taken into this game.
Australia are likely to again start with the same 4-3-3 set-up that proved so effective against the group’s other Gulf country, Kuwait on Friday. Their personnel should remain very similar, which again should facilitate a high-tempo and free-flowing brand of football.
The only change will be the loss of absence of Mile Jedinak due to injury, while Tommy Oar and Nathan Burns may receive their chance from the outset.
Oman on the contrary will be the more conservative of the two who will attempt to frustrate the home side and take the limited amount of chances that will come their way. Abdul Aziz Al-Muqbali toiled away as the lone ranger on Saturday but with a win essential for the visitors, it may be incumbent on Le Guen to add Al Hosani to bolster their forward stocks.
The big issue:
Mile Jedinak’s absence
The Socceroos’ skipper will miss this match after sustaining an ankle injury in the opening game against Kuwait. Despite continuing on and scoring in the second stanza, the Australian camp has decided to not risk playing him on Tuesday.
Jedinak’s omission does pave the way for Mark Milligan to step in and prove his worth in the position and ensure that the Crystal Palace man is not heavily missed.
Whether it be he or Terry Antonis who comes in, they will need to hit the ground running against an Omani team who with the likes of Raed Ibrahim Saleh and Eid Mohammed will look to target that part of the pitch.
The game breaker
After years of being billed as being Australia’s long-term central defender, Matthew Spiranovic has finally made the role his own. The 26-year-old, who played in the Socceroos’ only loss to Oman back in 2011 is wary of the threat that they pose, knowing that he will have to be at his best shut out the tricky Red Warriors and help prevent any leakiness at the back.
Although being far from holding veteran status, Western Sydney’s centre-back has a wealth of experience compared to full-back partners Ivan Franjic and Aziz Behich and will need to put it to good use to anchor his charges when the inevitable challenge arrives.
A tougher test than the one they received in Melbourne is in store for the Australians, who only need to recall Oman’s 5-0 win over Kuwait in November to perceive this.
If Australia can score first, it will make for an open game in contrast to if the Omanis draw first blood.
The Roos did refreshingly illustrate their firepower and different routes to goal against Kuwait, which suggests that they should have enough to break down their resilient opponents and guarantee a spot in the quarter-finals.
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