Socceroos braced for Syrian revenge

Dubai: Australia are braced for Syrian revenge after drawing their World Cup qualifying opponents in the group phase of the 2019 Asian Cup.

The Socceroos edged Syria 3-2 on aggregate in their World Cup play-off after a 2-1 extra-time win in October’s second leg at home in Sydney.

Assistant coach Ante Milicic now expects an Arab fight back after Australia also drew Jordan and Palestine in Group B of next year’s Asian Cup, where his side will bid to retain their title.

“After losing to us in a play-off they’ve got a chance to get revenge and it’s good for them to try and get that so soon after that memorable night in Sydney,” he said of Syria on the sidelines of Friday’s draw at the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Downtown.

Australia also played Jordan in the earlier rounds of World Cup qualification losing 2-0 away before winning 7-0 at home.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for these teams but at the same time it might work in our favour (having played them recently) because we know how hard it was.

“In an ideal world it would have been okay to get a few different styles of teams from other parts of Asia, but it is what it is,” he said of having to face three similarly physical sides.

“We’ll do our research and treat all three opponents equally and with a new coach on board (Bert van Marwijk has replaced Ange Postecoglou) the players will be very motivated to put on a good performance.

“We have to be the best to get to the top and we intend to do so. It’s a challenge we won’t shy away from, we look forward to defending our title, we’re proud to be Asian champions and it’s a big honour for us to be the best in Asia.

“Now we look to do well away from home,” he added of having won as hosts in 2015. “It’s a different test and a different challenge but again, one that we are definitely looking forward to and one we will be prepared for.”