Tar­tan ‘Arnie’ as Scots con­nec­tion pow­ers Aussies at Asian Cup

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

If Aus­tralia are to go deep at the Asian Cup they will owe much to the Scot­land-based play­ers who have been among their top per­form­ers so far in the United Arab Emi­rates.

Cap­tain Mark Mil­li­gan and striker Jamie Ma­claren both play for Hiber­nian in Ed­in­burgh, while for­ward Tom Rogic is a fan favourite at Celtic.

All three shone as the Soc­ceroos turned on the style in a 3-0 win over Pales­tine that reignited their ti­tle de­fence with one group game to play against Syria.

Coach Gra­ham “Arnie” Arnold would have had more Scot­tish fire­power if not for an un­timely knee in­jury to Martin Boyle, also at Hibs, af­ter his call-up into the squad.

Scot­land-born Boyle, the son of an Aussie truck driver, had scored two goals in three friendly ap­pear­ances af­ter re­ceiv­ing his Aus­tralian pass­port in Novem­ber.

Even with­out Boyle, Arnold has as many Scot­land-based play­ers in his squad as those liv­ing in Eng­land, or even Aus­tralia.

Ma­claren proved his worth as he shrugged off nine bar­ren ap­pear­ances to score his first in­ter­na­tional goal against Pales­tine with a glanc­ing header from a cross by Rogic.

Arnold praised both play­ers and es­pe­cially the “out­stand­ing” Rogic, who was play­ing with a bro­ken hand and also sprained his an­kle in Aus­tralia’s open­ing de­feat to Jor­dan.

“Not only did he have a bro­ken hand but he also had a sprained an­kle from the game against Jor­dan,” said Arnold.

“But Tommy, that’s how much pride he has in play­ing for the coun­try. He loves play­ing for Aus­tralia, he’s very proud to play for Aus­tralia.”

Rogic raised hack­les at Celtic when Aus­tralia’s train­ing camp forced him to miss last month’s Old Firm derby with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers — which Rangers won 1-0.

AUSSIE BRAVE­HEARTS

Ma­claren will prob­a­bly yield his start­ing place when Ja­pan-based An­drew Nab­bout re­turns from in­jury, but his per­for­mance against Pales­tine at least gives Arnold op­tions.

“It’s great to have com­pe­ti­tion for places. It cre­ates a very com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment and one that pushes play­ers to an­other level,” said the coach.

Ma­claren, con­sis­tently pro­lific at club level, said he never lost faith in his abil­ity to score de­spite his goal­less stretch for Aus­tralia.

“Yeah it’s prob­a­bly hard to ex­plain, it’s been a long time com­ing,” the 25-year-old said, ac­cord­ing to the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion web­site.

“I’ve never re­ally gone off track. I’m a goalscorer, I know chances will al­ways come my way, and when that chance does come I was there to take it.

“Now it’s time for me to step up and re­ally kick on.”

Aus­tralia were sti­fled 1-0 against Jor­dan but they have re­newed con­fi­dence for Tues­day’s fi­nal Group C game against Syria, where they need only a draw to reach the last 16.

“It’s easy to break down (de­fences) once the play­ers know how to do it. If teams are go­ing to play like that, the play­ers know ex­actly what to do,” Arnold said af­ter the Pales­tine win.

“I think you saw to­day, we had 10 or 11 great chances and I ex­pect us to get more clin­i­cal and more ruth­less in that re­gard.”

(AFP)

Aus­tralia’s Jamie Ma­claren (left) cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a goal dur­ing the 2019 AFC Asian Cup match against Pales­tine in Dubai on Fri­day.

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