Meulensteen praises Socceroos going ‘from strength to strength’

Socceroos Assistant Coach Rene Meulensteen has praised the squad’s performances as they prepare for their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ Round of 16 clash against Uzbekistan on Tuesday morning (AEDT).

Australia finished strongly in Group B, registering a 3-0 win over Palestine before downing Syria 3-2 in a thrilling encounter. 

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While the results have pleased fans and players alike, Meulensteen was most impressed by the way in which the players have grasped Graham Arnold’s attacking football philosophy. 

“[The result against Syria showed the players] have started to understand what we want,” said Meulensteen.

“We work hard at that at training everyday, we strongly believe that what we do at training will manifest itself in a game.

“And that’s for us so important because we can sit with the players and positively reinforce — ‘look, that’s the movement we were looking for’, ‘that’s the pass we’re looking for’, ‘these are the options you create’ — and then you’re going to create chances and score goals.

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“And if you look to since Arnie and the rest of the staff have taken over, the amount of chances we’ve created, the goals we’ve scored, we are on the right track.”

On top of the free-flowing football, another positive from Australia’s AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ campaign has been the emergence of Awer Mabil and Chris Ikonomidis. 

Mabil has stolen the headlines under the Arnold era, particularly during this tournament where he scored two goals in three games, including a stunner against Syria. 

Not to be outdone, Ikonomidis has one goal and four assists to his name, meaning he has contributed in five of Australia’s six goals. 

Meulensteen didn’t hold back when praising the players’ efforts and noting the fruition of their hard work.

“Fantastic — that is, in my opinion, nothing different than how things can change in football,” said Meulensteen. 

“Sometimes you have to say goodbye to players that have served a club or country extremely well, but then you have new, young, potential players that are knocking on the door. 

“And when they grab that opportunity, you see the potential. You can only applaud it because that gives us another dimension and strength in depth.”

Break before the hard work

After playing three times in 11 days, the Socceroos were given a day’s break before turning their attention to the game against Uzbekistan on Tuesday morning AEDT. 

With the players having been in camp for more than a fortnight, and the potential for the campaign to extend well over a month, Meulensteen believed it was vital for the players to get some rest.

“First of all, (we want) to give the players a bit of breathing space — to mentally freshen themselves up,” said Meulensteen .

“Some of them can go spend time with the family, some can do something different. 

“Just have a day with nothing to do with football which is really important because when they come back the focus is back on, we know who we are going to play. 

“(The break) also gives them some physical freshness, just takes the tension off it and again pick it up as soon as they come back after those days and then we go again.”

The Socceroos take on Uzbekistan at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at 1:00am AEDT. The game will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS 505.