Australia out to break Syrian hearts

Published: October 9, 2017


SYDNEY: Coach Ange Postecoglou has just one result in mind when he sends Australia out to face Syria in the second leg of their Asian World Cup qualifying playoff against Syria on Tuesday — an emphatic victory.

Last week’s 1-1 draw in Malaysia, Syria’s ‘home’ for the qualifiers, means a goalless stalemate at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium would be enough to keep alive Australia’s hopes of a fourth straight World Cup finals appearance.

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That would guarantee an intercontinental playoff against a team from North and Central America in November, but that kind of calculation does not sit well with Postecoglou’s footballing philosophy.

“Yeah, no, look, I think for us, the objective is clear: If we win, we’re through,” he told reporters on Monday. “If you start thinking about scorelines, or anything other than trying to beat the opposition, then I think you get into tricky situations. Our objective is to play our football, we want to be aggressive, we want to be attacking, we want to take it to the opposition and test them.”

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Australia would probably have secured a place in Russia already but for four draws in 10 matches in the third stage of Asian qualifying. An inability to score goals has certainly hurt them, but Postecoglou’s adoption of a three-man defensive system has also come under fire.

While Postecoglou said he might consider playing totemic striker Tim Cahill from the start on Tuesday, he had given no thought to adjusting the basic formation.

“We felt the game the other night, we controlled really well for at least the first hour or so,” he said. “It got a bit frantic and chaotic towards the end, which suited them more than us… but for the most part, I was pretty happy with the way we went about things and we’ll continue to do the same things.”

Postecoglou thought an excellent playing surface at the same stadium where Australia won the 2015 Asian Cup would work to his team’s benefit, while making the long trip Down Under might work against the Syrians.

The Syrians have defied expectations to keep alive their hopes of a maiden World Cup appearance and Postecoglou is anticipating another never-say-die performance from them even as they deal with a heavy injury toll. ”

When you look at their World Cup qualifying group, every game they made it tough for the opposition,” he said. “We’re expecting a tough game tomorrow night regardless of who they put out.”

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