AFC Asian Cup 2023: Australia’s Duke to miss Uzbekistan game with injury, says Arnold

Australia striker Mitchell Duke will miss their final Asian Cup group game against Uzbekistan with a hamstring injury while the starting lineup will see changes, coach Graham Arnold said on Monday.

Australia has already qualified for the last 16 and is guaranteed a spot in the top two of Group B with six points, while Uzbekistan is two points behind in second.

“I’ll be honest, Mitch Duke is out of this game. Just a slight hamstring (injury) and with the short turnaround that we have,” Arnold told reporters.

Duke is the squad’s top scorer in internationals (12) and Arnold said he hoped to see young hopefuls step up for Australia, who did not call up Melbourne City’s prolific striker Jamie Maclaren and experienced winger Mathew Leckie.

“Since I’ve first been in the job in 2018, I coached the Olympic team as well, I had to develop players to strengthen the squad. Probably nothing has really changed too much today, the only thing is we have more depth today,” he added.

“We’ve got some older players that probably may not make the next World Cup and I’ve got to find replacements for them while I’m expected to win the games.

“So there will be changes but it won’t impact the strength of the starting 11.”

Australia’s set pieces have been a major strength but it has not made them count in the Asian Cup and Arnold said he had to give credit to how the teams have defended corners and free kicks.

“They’ve probably sat and studied the way that we take set pieces, the importance of Harry (Souttar) and other players,” he said.

“Our delivery has been a little bit off but we’ll be working on that again today. They’re defending their six-yard box well and getting everyone back in those areas to try and stop our delivery.”

Arnold had also championed clean sheets as the key to winning tournaments but brushed aside criticism that the 2015 champions play too defensively.

“We’re an attacking team that knows how to defend. And if you look at the stats, probably from our first two games, you’ll see we’ve had more touches in the penalty box than any other team in this Asian Cup,” Arnold said.

Source website: sportstar.thehindu.com

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