LONDON: Jordan must believe they can beat Australia if they are to have a chance of winning their opening clash today.
That is the message from coach
Vital Borkelmans, whose side head into the Group B match on the back of a run of form that has seen them win just once since last May. As if that was not bad enough they have to face the defending champions in Al-Ain — the age-old mantra of making sure you do not lose your first match of a tournament doubtless not far from their minds.
But since the new coach took his seat in the dugout in October, there has been some encouragement. A 2-1 victory against India and a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia were both cause for optimism. And even if those results were followed by defeats to Kyrgyzstan and Qatar — slightly tempered by a draw against China — Borkelmans, below, is clearly a glass-half-full kind of guy as he was only stressing the positives ahead of Jordan’s crunch clash against the Socceroos.
“My team is ready physically and mentally and tomorrow they will hopefully make a good game like they did in Qatar and make a lot of chances as we did against China, Kyrgyzstan and Qatar,” the Belgian said. “They made a lot of chances and it’s very important they continue to do so and one day it will change, and maybe that will be (against Australia).”
If there is an obvious Achilles heel, it is a lack of goals. During the pre-tournament training camp in Qatar they scored just once in their three matches. It is hard to see Jordan troubling an Australia side that, despite missing key players through injury, still enter the tournament as one of the big favorites.
“Australia (are) very good, they were at the World Cup and the experience they have at the Asian Cup is amazing,” the coach said.
“For us, we are preparing for every game, not only Australia is very important. (We have) games against Syria and Palestine. There are three Arab teams in this group, so this is a special group.
“This tournament is so special, for every team and every country the start is always dangerous and every team is scared to lose.”
The Socceroos would do well, however, to not take Jordan lightly. While much has changed since the sides met in qualifying the Aussies will be only too aware that they were beaten by the Middle East team 2-0 in Amman before gaining revenge 5-1 in the return in Sydney.
Perhaps because of that Australia coach Graham Arnold has told his players that reputation will count for nothing come kick-off. The Socceroos may be defending champions, but the message being delivered from the dugout is that if they fail to bring their A-game, anything could happen.
“(Winning the title four years ago) is a great memory, but we’re totally focused on what’s in front of us,” Arnold said. “We can’t do anything about the past and what’s in front of us is the Asian Cup. For the players it’s time to get the show started. Everyone’s been talking about it for a long time and we’ve prepared for it and we’re ready.”
Arnold confirmed Mathew Leckie will not be fit enough to play after sustaining a hamstring injury in the build-up to the tournament, but he remains hopeful the Hertha Berlin winger will return soon.
“He’s coming along really well,” Arnold said. “Obviously it’s one game at a time and we’ve really thrown our belief behind him, and he has a strong will to be with us. He’s worked hard and at this minute he’s only out for the first game. We’ll reassess for the second.”