Australia will face off against the United Arab Emirates at the Hunter Stadium on Tuesday at 8pm AEDST.
Tournaments rarely pass up an opportunity to surprise and one need look no further than Australia’s semi-final opposition, the UAE. But defeating Japan and hosts Australia back-to-back seems like a big ask for the Cup minnows. Meanwhile Australia will be looking to sweep past the UAE in the hope of doing something special in the final in the absence of the eliminated favourites. Shaun Moran previews the action.
Played 2: Australia 0 wins, United Arab Emirates 0 wins, 2 draws
History provides very little indication as to what the two semi-finalists will serve up for the Novocastrians in the Hunter in what will be the first competitive meeting between the two.
Notwithstanding the two scoreless stalemates in both the 2011 and 2014 friendlies, the difference in venue and personnel are all factors that suggest a very different match is in store this time round.
Coach Ange Postecoglou will keep faith with the 4-1-2-3 system that has got the Socceroos this far. Ball retention and high-octane football will be the message once more as the Australians seek to overwhelm the Emiratis with speed and an unwavering work ethic.
Matthew Spiranovic will come back into the eleven in place of Alex Wilkinson who performed admirably against China. While skipper Mile Jedinak will be asked to marshal the midfield and snuff out any forays that come his way.
The only change from the previous outing may be the inclusion of James Troisi from the start in place of Mark Bresciano.
A young UAE side will attempt to constrict the central corridor and hit the Socceroos on the break in a fast transition.
Gulf Cup Golden Boot winner Ali Mabkout will be aided by Ahmed Khalil up front, who will be unforgiving when given a sniff.
The UAE have conceded four goals in four games so far but have faced more shots than any other side in the competition. Breaking them down will be essential with the likes of Tim Cahill lurking.
The big issue
Al-Abyad’s fitness: 120 minutes and an enervating climax to the quarter-final against Japan will have taken its toll on the men from the Gulf.
One day’s less rest is also a factor that does not bode well and, if anything, will motivate the Australians to play at the same sort of relentless pace that forced China to chase the ball and ultimately led to their unravelling.
The Emiratis do have the finest medical resources and recovery tools at their disposal, however, to compensate and prepare them for the gruelling test that awaits.
A similar invitation to that employed against Japan – when they sat back and absorbed wave after wave of attack may need some tinkering if they are to avoid fading, particularly in the latter stages.
The game breaker
Al-Ain’s Saudi Arabian born star, Oman Abdulrahman, has been touted as Asia’s finest player by many in recent times and it is no wonder that the Australians will want to keep him in check from the outset.
The left-footed attacking midfielder is notorious for his tightknit dribbling and prescient passing, which has had the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona and Arsenal inquiring about his services.
Although technically gifted, and not shy to attempt the audacious at times – as his Panenka penalty against Japan demonstrated – his mindset and dubious work ethic can let him down.
He will be at his most dangerous if given a chance to turn and face the goal, which should have the Socceroos’ defence pressing him from behind at the earliest opportunity.
Australia’s ability to find the net more than any other country in the tournament, combined with the UAE’s Ali Mabkout leading the goal scoring tally, means that there will be goals on offer.
The type of defensive fortitude that Korea Republic displayed against the ‘Roos in Brisbane will need to be replicated by Mahdi Ali’s troops if they harbour any aspirations of keeping the home side out.
Concentration and precision on the part of the Socceroos’ eleven will keep them in good stead to secure their passage to their second successive AFC Asian Cup final.
Australia 3 - 1 United Arab Emiratescomments