Australia confirmed their passage through to their second consecutive Asian Cup final defeating the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2-0. The two goals came in quick succession in the early stages of the game. Defensive duo Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson found the net for the Socceroos. The UAE disappointed by not showing that early tournament promise or the sharpened counter-attacking football they played so well against Japan that saw Ali Mabkhout score in the quarterfinal.
Omar Abdulrahman can’t do it all on his own
Omar Abdulrahman has showcased his talents for all to see this Asian Cup, and is by far the most talented player in his national team. However, as the Al-Ain man found out he can’t do it all on his own. Ahmed Khalil and Ali Mabkhout have been great outlets for Omar during the tournament, finishing moves after many a threaded ball from the UAE talisman. But unlike previous games the support system for Omar wasn’t in full flow. For all his slalom runs and dribbles came an Australian defender to meet him at the crucial moment.
Cahill goalless but presence still important
There have long been questions about Australia’s reliance on Tim Cahill. The former Evertonian, ending the game goalless, may account for the Socceroos finding alternative methods of scoring. But this may not mean the end of their dependence of Cahill as the focal point of their attack.
Preparing for the semifinal against Australia, there’s no doubt Mahdi Ali informed his defenders of the potential danger Cahill poses in attack. The message to mark Tim Cahill out of the game was obvious in the Socceroos goals. Tim Cahill attracted the bulk of the attention in both of the goals. Trent Sainsbury was completely free to head on goal while Cahill had multiple UAE defenders to contend with. Jason Davidson was unmarked and in space to pick his spot for the second as Cahill was wrestling with defenders near goal.
Throughout the game Cahill’s presence created space for other players to exploit, and the unconscious threat of the New York Red Bull’s midfielder casted doubts into the Emirati defence.
Socceroos need more from attackers
The Socceroos have progressed and are through to the final on home soil. There’s a lot to be happy about in the camp right now, especially right after a semifinal victory. But there’s a growing problem emerging, and it needs to be addressed. The lack of goals from wide players such as Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse is a worrying sight. Leckie is almost always praised for his hard work and persistence, but needs to add more end product to that industry.
Whereas, Kruse has a track record of scoring and assisting to help carry the load in attack, but has struggled to find that extra step. There were a number of counter-attacking opportunities Kruse had against the UAE but he couldn’t find a pass, the ball was stuck between his legs or the shot was too tame.
UAE unconvincing collective
The UAE’s generation of players has been the talk of the tournament. The slow journey o development that Mahdi Ali took with his side, through multiple age groups has been hailed as a blueprint for others to follow.
However, despite possessing players as promising as Omar Abdulrahman, Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil it was a collective failure against the Socceroos for the Emiratis. The team went from a gutsy performance against Japan where the team held on for dear life, to a markedly inferior performance early on in the semifinal against Australia that was subdued and listless.
The UAE began to stretch the game more in the second half with Ismail Al-Hammadi adding dynamism to their attack, but Australia were content to sit back and soak up pressure. The game looked to have passed this promising UAE side by, maybe it was a tournament too soon for Mahdi Ali & his charges.