Five things we learned from Socceroos’ play-off warm-up win over Jordan

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First time for everything

Graham Arnold could not help but feel a sense of relief after watching his Socceroos achieve a feat not seen throughout his four-year tenure.
Awer Mabil’s 68th-minute goal earned Australia a 2-1 victory in the final hit-out before the World Cup play-offs, having trailed for the majority of the first half thanks to a fine first-time strike from Musa Al-Taamari.
The come-from-behind win was the kind of reaction Arnold had hoped to see in the third round of AFC qualification, where three points were predicated upon whether his side scored first.
“I’ll be honest, I think that’s the first time we’ve come back (to win) since I’ve been in charge,” Arnold admitted during Network Ten‘s post-game coverage.
“Tonight, it was really good to see the reaction… in the past we’ve fallen apart, but tonight that wasn’t the case.”
Bailey Wright’s header five minutes before the break atoned for a woeful first-half display from the Socceroos, one that could have seen them trail 2-0 had the VAR been present.
Nevertheless, the Sunderland centre-back atoned for his earlier error to turn the tide and set up a second half that, for the most part, featured a much-improved performance.
The result could not have come at a better time for Arnold, who will hope to see this renewed resiliency against the United Arab Emirates on June 8.


Problem positions?

We remain no closer to knowing the exact line-up Graham Arnold will field against the United Arab Emirates next week, even after his fresh-faced Socceroos defeated Jordan on Thursday.
What we do know, however, is that there remain several problem positions in need of significant solutions.
Jason Davidson’s long-awaited return to the national team hit some hurdles in Al Wakrah, with Jordan finding plenty of joy in behind through Ihsan Haddad, Ahmed Samir and Musa Al-Taamari.
Al-Taamari’s first-half opener highlighted the Melbourne Victory defender’s struggles in transition, and he later made way for Aziz Behich at half-time.
Behich appears to be the favorite moving forward, though the search to replace Tom Rogic in midfield could continue in the coming days.
Riley McGree was deployed as the number 10 against Jordan, with Kenneth Dougall getting the nod alongside Aaron Mooy at the base of midfield.
Denis Genreau, Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic all featured in the second half, and it was the latter who replaced McGree with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, tasked with leading the line, Nick D’Agostino grabbed the assist for Awer Mabil’s winning goal, though he too was later substituted in favor of Jamie Maclaren, with fellow strikers Mitch Duke and Adam Taggart not involved.
Selection headaches such as these are not uncommon – or unwelcomed – in football, but when a World Cup berth hangs in the balance, it’s one the coach cannot afford to get wrong.


Practice makes perfect

This age-old adage could not be more appropriate as Australia’s date with the UAE draws nearer.
Jordan brought the best and worst out of Australia in their warm-up match, a dichotomy Graham Arnold himself was happy to admit despite triumphing 2-1.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Arnold said Network Ten after the match.
“Probably couldn’t have had a better game to play… they put us under pressure.”
There’s a striking similarity between Jordan and the UAE, in truth, with both nations possessing a strength and standard that have troubled the Socceroos since Arnold’s appointment in 2018.
Both nations bookended Australia’s failed Asian Cup defense in 2019, for one, and the UAE will hope to repeat that result in the first meeting between the two sides since that quarter-final encounter.
If their Jordan warm-up was anything to go by, Arnold should have his side better equipped for what’s to come on June 8, so long as they build on the fruits of their second half, not their frustrating first.

Home from home

The Socceroos preserved their perfect recent record in Qatar with a much-needed warm-up win over Jordan in Al Wakrah.
Australia’s 2-1 victory was their third in as many games in the nation since 2021, and an encouraging result ahead of their all-important play-off against the United Arab Emirates.
Al Janoub Stadium hosted proceedings on Thursday, no more than 22 kilometers from their date with the UAE in Al Rayyan, and it’s exactly the outcome they’ll look to replicate on June 8.
Qatar became a home of sorts for the Socceroos during the third round of AFC qualification, with the spread of COVID-19 in Australia forcing them to face both Oman and China in Doha.
Successive victories at Khalifa International Stadium were one of the few positives to come from an otherwise disappointing campaign, and that form looks to have been restored at just the right time.


On a row(s)

It’s been a week to savor for Kye Rowles; the Central Coast Mariners defender who backed up an A-League All Stars berth against Barcelona with his Socceroos debut on Thursday.
Rowles partnered Bailey Wright in central defense for Australia’s warm-up match against Jordan, and coach Graham Arnold was among his admirers, confirming he had a “very good debut” in the 2-1 win.
The 23-year-old’s rapid rise to the national team was a result of his success with the Mariners last season, and while the likes of Trent Sainsbury and Milos Degenek could keep their place for the play-offs, Rowles vowed to do everything possible to keep the caps coming.
“I’ll do whatever to stay in the team just like everyone and that’s the best thing about this group,” Rowles told Network Ten.
“There’s so much competition so you know that you have got to be on your A-game to be in with a sniff.”

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