The Socceroos face a must-win match against minnows Palestine to keep their AFC Asian Cup title defence alive on Friday.
After suffering a shock loss to Jordan in their Group B opener in the UAE, Graham Arnold’s Australia side know they cannot afford a slip up against Palestine at Rashid Stadium.
Head to Head
Australia and Palestine actually played five times in the space of a month in 1939 and they remain the only previous meetings. The Socceroos won three times, Palestine were victorious once and the other game ended in a draw. This will be the first meaningful fixture.
Australia will be eliminated from the competition if they lose.
Palestine collected their first ever Asian Cup point with a 0-0 draw against Syria.
The Socceroos have won just two of their last seven internationals.
A poor display in their AFC Asian Cup opener resulted in a 1-0 defeat to Jordan and defending champions the Socceroos need to offer a whole lot more going forward against Palestine.
With the injured Daniel Arzani, Matt Leckie, Aaron Mooy and Martin Boyle, Australia struggled to create chances against Jordan. Arnold may consider chances as he looks to improve on that below-par performance.
Palestine are one of the weaker teams in Asia, but they showed great resilience to secure their first ever Asian Cup point in their Group B opener.
Despite having a man sent off, the 10 men of Palestine restricted Syria with a brave defensive display and similar tactics are likely to be employed in a bid to frustrate the Socceroos.
The onus will be on Australia to find some spark in attack, and the fit-again Andrew Nabbout and Tom Rogic will be welcome inclusions.
The Socceroos should be better for the run out against Jordan and they should be too good for Palestine. But don’t expect it to be comfortable viewing because Australia just aren’t firing at the moment.
Prediction: Australia/Australia – HT/FT