Graham Arnold finally has something to build on after watching his Socceroos overcome a spirited but limited Palestine in Dubai. The performance was much better than against Jordan in Australia’s tournament opener but it still wasn’t much to get excited about against far weaker opposition.
Arnold’s selection changes worked. Chris Ikonomidis was outstanding in place of Robbie Kruse while Jackson Irvine did what was asked of him in midfield after being selected ahead of Massimo Luongo. The decision to retain the under fire Jamie Maclaren also worked, the striker repaying his coach’s faith with a well-taken first-half goal, though he was largely anonymous thereafter.
Mark Milligan ran the game from the base of midfield and his long diagonal passes offered a more effective mode of attack than anything Australia produced against Jordan. Both Aziz Behich and Rhyan Grant benefited from the service, as did the lively Awer Mabil.
The one negative from the showing was a second yellow card of the tournament for Trent Sainsbury, ruling him out of the crucial final group match with Syria. It remains to be seen if Arnold goes for a like-for-like replacement or shuffles his pack and returns Milligan to defence.
That is a question for another day, one that can be approached in high spirits after the defending champions opened their account at Asian Cup 2019.
That’s all from me for now, see you back here for the Syria game on Wednesday night.