Syria vs. Australia - First Leg
MATCH UP STATS
Syria vs. Australia - First Leg
Match handicapsSyria: +1 at $1.85 with William HillAustralia: -1 at $3.50 with Sportsbet
WE thought these days were over, but still a long road lies between Australia and the FIFA World Cup finals.
Saudi Arabia’s win over Japan in the last round of AFC group games means the Socceroos will have to navigate a pair of playoff ties to qualify for Russia 2018.
First up is a tricky date with Syria, who have captured the hearts and minds of the football world with their heroic efforts amid the ravages of civil war.
The silver lining for the Aussies is that they will not have to travel all the way to the Middle East for Thursday’s first leg, which will be played on neutral ground in Malacca, Malaysia.
Ange Postecoglou’s men are clear favourites with online bookmakers, yet there are rumblings at home about the coach’s persistence with a formation that failed to fire during the group stage.
Despite heavy backlash from some notable media figures, Postecoglou has a few high-profile admirers within the playing group.
“My favourite saying is, ‘you miss someone when they’re gone’,” Tim Cahill told reporters this week.
“His effect on the game, in years and years to come, people will sit there and go, ‘wow, an Australian coach did that to our country in four years – won us an Asian Cup, undefeated in the qualifiers other than the Japan away game, and he changed the footprint of football in Australia’.
“I’m talking A-League (as well), everyone plays Ange’s style, it’s nothing new.
“Now our Socceroos are playing and dominating games but that will be the case for him, they’ll miss him when he’s gone.”
Whether or not Postecolgou adopts a more flexible approach for the playoffs remains to be seen, but the starting XI in Krubong could feature a few fresh faces.
Fullbacks Aziz Behich and Josh Risdon have joined the 23-man squad in a move that could signal a switch from a three-man defence to a flat back four.
— Caltex Socceroos (@Socceroos) October 2, 2017
Craig Goodwin also comes in to add another option on the left flank, while 30-year-old forward Nikita Rukavytsya returns from the international wilderness.
Trent Sainsbury is expected to start at centre-half after notching a rare 90 minutes for his club side in China, which should free up Mark Milligan to play in the midfield.
Among the notable absentees are Alex Gersbach, Jamie Maclaren and injured skipper Mile Jedinak.
Socceroos first goalscorer betting
$2.80 – Any Syria player
$6 – Tomi Juric
$7 – Tim Cahill
$7.50 – Tom Rogic
$8.50 – Robbie Kruse, Nikita Rukavytsya
$9 – Mathew Leckie
$10 – James Troisi
$12 – Craig Goodwin, Jackson Irvine
$14 – Mustafa Amini
$15 – Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy
$17 – Brad Smith
$23 – Aziz Behich
$29 – Trent Sainsbury, Bailey Wright
$34 – Josh Risdon
$41 – Milos Degenek, Matthew Jurman
Aaron Mooy – Australia’s star playmaker is also one of their most dangerous finishers. With the likes of Leckie and Kruse failing to bring club form to international level, Mooy has to come into the picture. The $15 quote looks especially tasty when you factor in the Huddersfield Town man’s expertise with the dead ball.
Firas Al-Khatib – If the Syrians have a Timmy Cahill equivalent, it is this guy. A staunch opponent of the Assad regime, Al-Khatib has returned from a five-year hiatus for this historic qualifying campaign. The 34-year-old striker is paying $7.50 at Bet365.com.au to open the scoring with his 28th international goal.
No goalscorer – Neither of these teams is renowned for exciting, free-scoring football. Syria scored only nine goals in 10 games during the group phase, while Australia’s wasteful finishing was a big factor in their failure to qualify outright. Those expecting a goalless draw should take the very generous $10 odds at William Hill.
Syria vs. Australia match prediction
Can the underdogs upset one of Asian football’s giants? We have already seen that Syria can punch well above their weight and nick goals against the run of play. The fact they have made this far without any home advantage speaks volumes of the team’s character and the quality of their leadership.
It all depends on how the Socceroos play. If the likes of Mooy and Rogic find time on the ball and the forwards show a bit of poise and precision, the away side should have no issues. If, however, we see the same one-dimensional ball movement and silly technical lapses that have dogged Australia of late, it could be another frustrating night.
Anything but a win in Malacca will go down as a disaster for Postecoglou and the Aussies. Expect a scrappy affair settled by the odd goal for the green and gold.
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