Chris Ikonomidis in action for the Socceroos in the Asian Cup. Picture: Getty Images
Chris Ikonomidis in action for the Socceroos in the Asian Cup. Picture: Getty Images

Socceroos get close to next opponent

Elevator conversations can be awkward at the best of times - try when your travelling companion is also your next Asian Cup target.

The Socceroos have been negotiating the tricky terrain all week after a logistical quirk left them staying in the same United Arab Emirates hotel as Monday night's round-of-16 opponents Uzbekistan.

It was certainly uncharted territory for coach Graham Arnold at a major international tournament.

"It's probably the first time I've ever seen it in all my time international football," Arnold said.

"But it's the way it is. We get to say hello to them every morning and goodnight to them every night, so it's nice."

The lobby of Australia's team hotel in Al Ain is a peculiar mix of green and gold and the blue, white and green of the country they hope to knock off on the way to the quarter-finals.

Just like Arnold, though, Uzbekistan manager Hector Cuper was unfazed.

"There is no problem to stay at the same hotel," the Argentine said.

"There is nothing to worry about. We can live together. Every day we meet each other and there is not any conflict, it is a good atmosphere.

"We even meet in the elevator every day. We're like friends already. It's pure competition, there is not any rivalry, we always try to maintain fair play so I don't see any problem to stay at the hotel and live with the Australian side."

 

Australian coach Graham Arnold has no issues sharing the same hotel as Uzbekistan. Picture: AP
Australian coach Graham Arnold has no issues sharing the same hotel as Uzbekistan. Picture: AP

All the niceties will be cast aside at Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, where the Socceroos will go for the jugular of the team they thrashed 6-0 in the 2011 Asian Cup semi-final in Qatar.

Arnold has called for increased ruthlessness, for his side to take their chances and kill the game off like they nearly didn't against Syria, but is backing his defending champions on the back of a five-day break.

The White Wolves should present a step up in quality compared to that of Australia's group-stage opponents Jordan, Palestine and Syria.

On top of that, they're after payback for that 2011 rout.

"During 2011 I was a kid, I watched this game," Uzbekistan midfielder Jaloliddin Masharipov said.

"I was sad, but I can say we want to compensate this defeat. We want to beat (them) this time for our players which lost in 2011. It will be some kind of revenge."

News Corp Australia


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