‘I’ve never seen anyone guess every single penalty’: Degenek’s confidence in Socceroos’ shootout success
Standing on halfway with his teammates ahead of the do-or-die AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ Round of 16 penalty shootout against Uzbekistan, Socceroos defender Milos Degenek felt remarkably calm.
After 120 gruelling minutes could not separate the teams, there was, as always, a little apprehension heading into football’s version of Russian roulette.
But not for Degenek, whose belief in keeper Maty Ryan to step up, and faith in the team’s penalty takers, left no doubt it would be Australia advancing to the next round.
“I was standing next to Trent [Sainsbury] and he guessed every single penalty. I’ve never seen anyone guess every single penalty, where they were going to shoot. I was amazed by that,” Degenek told www.socceroos.com.au.
“But to be honest we were quite confident. We had confidence in Maty [Ryan] and he delivered, and we were quite confident in our takers.
“It doesn’t matter if we got to the fifth, sixth, seventh, we were all confident to take one.
“It was something new for me as well, a first penalty shootout at this level, but it was fun.”
With the Uzbekistan challenge now overcome, the Socceroos will quickly switch their focus to a blockbuster Quarter Final against host nation UAE.
The clash – at 3am Saturday morning (AEDT) – will be played at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, the same venue as Australia’s opening match of the tournament against Jordan.
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While it’s sure to be another tough challenge for Graham Arnold’s men, Degenek knows what it takes to beat the UAE on their home turf.
“It was two years ago we played the [FIFA World Cup] qualifier in Abu Dhabi. We had quite a big crowd here, it was 41 degrees and Timmy [Cahill] ended up scoring,” said Degenek of the Socceroos’ 1-0 win in September 2016.
“It will be a very nice atmosphere, it will be a nice game, beautiful stadium, beautiful pitch.
“It’s a big game, a very important game that gets you through to the Semi Finals.
“We’re all going to be pumped and psyched for that and we’re going to prepare well.”