Socceroos aim to defend Asian Cup as 23-man squad finalised

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Canberra, Dec 20 (IANS) Australian men’s national team looks to defend its title at 2019 AFC Asian Cup as the head coach Graham Arnold has announced the 23 players to play at the 17th edition of the tournament on Thursday.

According to Australia Football Federation (FFA), Arnold’s squad, with an average age of 26, will assemble in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the pre-tournament training camp from December 26, and will open its defending campaign against Jordan on January 6, reports Xinhua news agency.

Australia’s squad features three current players – Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers FC), Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC), and Chris Ikonomidis (Perth Glory FC), playing in the A-League (Australian top flight league). While 20 others play mainly in European leagues.

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Arnold said his side have a balanced and exciting group of players and are confident to become the champion of Asia in a row after their triumph in 2015.

“It is exciting that 15 of the 23 players in the squad will be attending their first AFC Asian Cup, and I am expecting that Australian fans will see some great performances from our kids throughout the tournament.

“In the short amount of time I have had in charge I feel that we have come a long way, and we will travel to the UAE expecting to win every match and ultimately lift the trophy in early February in Abu Dhabi.”

Among the squad, 22 of the 23 players that have been selected into the national team as part of either camps or matches under Arnold since September, with 23-year-old Perth Glory winger or attacking midfielder Chris Ikonomidis the exception.

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Arnold explained that Ikonomidis can help the team play in their football style.

“Chris will add pace and energy to our attack, which is the consistent feature of the players that we have picked in the Socceroos’ attack for this tournament.

“We will play energetic, high-intensity football in the UAE, and the rapid attackers we have selected including Chris, Mathew (Leckie), Robbie (Kruse), Awer (Mabil), Martin (Boyle), Andrew (Nabbout), and Jamie (Maclaren) will enable us to implement our style,” he concluded.

Eight venues in four cities (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Al Ain) will host matches at the Asian Cup from January 5 to February 1. Australia will play Jordan, Palestine, and Syria in Group B.

–IANS

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