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               Socceroos at the 2023 Asian Cup: Will They Bounce Or Flop                                                           THE JOURNAL OF SPORT,  LEISURE & RISK  WITH AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE        November 2023

                                                                                                                                   Fringe players like Awer Mabil, once they         Group C features Iran, who impressed by
                                                                                                                                   secure more match minutes, could force            beating Wales in the World Cup group
                                                                                                                                   Arnold into a positive selection headache.        stages, alongside the UAE, Hong Kong,
                                                                                                                                                                                     and Palestine. Group D is headlined by
                                                                                                                                   Ajdin Hrustic, with his technical brilliance,     Japan, the team with the most wins in
                                                                                                                                   could provide some much-needed sparkle in  this competition. They were a standout in
                                                                                                                                   the team. However, his lack of playing time       the 2022 World Cup, securing surprising
                                                                                                                                   at his club remains a concern, highlighting       victories against European giants Germany
                                                                                                                                   the importance of his fitness. Mitchell Duke      and Spain.
                                                                                                                                   should end up leading the attack.
                                                                                                                                                                                     South Korea, led by Heung-Min Son, is
                                                                                                                                   The Socceroos’ journey to the Asian Cup in        expected to advance comfortably from
                                                                                                                                   2024 is not just about competing; it’s about      Group E, while Saudi Arabia, the only
                                                                                                                                   redemption and glory. The disappointment          team to beat Argentina at the World Cup,
                                                                                                                                   of their 2019 campaign, where they failed         tops Group F. That win against Argentina
                                                                                                                                   to defend their Asian Cup title, still lingers.   provided a silver lining for their early World
                                                                                                                                   However, their impressive performance             Cup exit and offers momentum for this
                                                                                                                                   at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has           tournament.
                                                                                                                                   rekindled the belief that they can emerge
                                                                                                                                   victorious on the continent.                      Qatar, with the unique distinction of
                                                                                                                                                                                     hosting the Asian Cup for the third time,
                                                                                                                                   Qatar holds happy memories for the                has incorporated their World Cup stadiums
                                                                                                                                   Socceroos. With this squad, they may be           as venues, making this event even more
                                                                                                                                   poised to follow in the footsteps of Ange         special. Six of the eight stadiums that
                                                                                                                                   Postecoglou, who guided them to Asian             hosted 2022 World Cup games will be
              After an unsuccessful tournament                 team seems to be settled, with a healthy                            Cup glory in 2015.                                reused, enhancing the tournament’s
              campaign in 2019, the team is pumped             combination of youth and experience.                                                                                  grandeur. Jassim al Jassim, COO of the
              up to win it all and relive the glory of their   Mark Schwarzer, a legend of the game,                               Who Are They Up Against?                          tournament, emphasised the enthusiasm
              2015 championship. The draw for the group  is on record for suggesting changes that                                                                                    and favourable weather conditions for fans
              stage placed the Socceroos in Group B            revolve around strengthening the defence,                           With only a few months remaining until the        attending the competition in January.
              alongside Uzbekistan, Syria, and India. This     particularly placing Aziz Behich at right-                          tournament commences, all 24 participating
              looks easy on paper, but group stages can        back. The idea is to maintain a solid                               teams have been finalised. As the reigning        On the field, Qatar’s performance in the
              be tricky, and Australia did suffer a few        defensive setup and solidify the team’s                             champions after their victory in the 2019         2022 World Cup didn’t meet expectations,
              awkward moments in qualifying. And lest          backline, crucial in a tournament where                             edition of the tournament, Qatar is eager to      and they are eager to demonstrate their
              we forget, Australia needed penalties to         every goal can make a difference.                                   defend their title on home turf in January.       true capabilities. With manager Felix
              squeak past Uzbekistan in 2019.                                                                                                                                        Sanchez departing, Carlos Queiroz from
                                                               In the central defence, Schwarzer goes                              The group stage draw, held in Doha in             Portugal is taking the helm. As the reigning
              Graham Arnold, the team’s head coach,            on to suggest the possibility of fielding all                       May, has set the stage for an intriguing          Asian champions, there is added pressure
              emphasised the advantage of playing              three of the big centre halves – Kye Rowles,                        competition. In Group A, the hosts                on Qatar to perform well, and they are
              in Qatar, which has become a “home               Cameron Burgess, and Harry Souttar – to                             find themselves alongside China and               determined to make a deep run in the
              away from home” for the squad. Having            create a formidable defensive line.                                 Lebanon, as well as tournament debutants          tournament, aiming to lift the trophy for a
              previously played against Syria in World                                                                             Tajikistan. China, despite never winning the      second consecutive time. The 2023 Asian
              Cup qualifiers and faced Uzbekistan, the         While games are lost in defence, it is in                           competition, has been a runner-up twice.          Cup promises to be an exciting spectacle in
              team is well-acquainted with the Qatari          the middle of the park that games are                               Their national team is making a comeback          the heart of the Gulf, featuring a dynamic
              surroundings. This can be a mighty asset as  controlled, and ultimately won. Riley                                   after struggling with the challenges posed        mix of established and emerging football
              they aim to navigate the challenging group.      McGree could be used as an impact                                   by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tajikistan, on          nations.
                                                               substitute, while players like Craig Goodwin,                       the other hand, will make their tournament
              While the squad has only a few games             Jackson Irvine, Keanu Baccus, and Connor                            debut, having gained independence just
              left to fine-tune their composition, the         Metcalfe should be given starting berths.                           three decades ago.
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