Australia’s Asian Cup defence has got off to a horror start with a 1-0 loss to Jordan.
A towering header in the 26th minute was enough for 108th ranked Jordan to snatch an upset win in their opening clash of the tournament in Al Ain on Sunday.
The 41st world ranked Socceroos must win their remaining group matches to have any chance of progressing to the next stage and retaining the Asian Cup title.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold conceded the loss was a ‘wakeup call’ for his squad, who appeared lethargic in the opening half and were unable to penetrate Jordan’s enthusiastic defence.
Ranked 109th in the world, Jordan hit the lead in the 26th minute and managed to hold onto the lead for a massive Asian Cup boilover against the Socceroos
It didn’t long for experts and fans to start venting their frustration during the game.
Former Socceroo goalkeeper turned commentator Mark Bosnich described the opening 45 minutes as ‘one of the worst first halves I’ve seen from an Australian side in a long time.’
Even the recently retired Tim Cahill acknowledged his former teammates had a tough job ahead of them in the second half, as fans begged him to come out of retirement.
‘We need a big second half, this was always going to be a very difficult. We have to be patient and keep composed because the chances will come and then it’s about making it count,’ he tweeted.
A dejected Tom Rogic and Ryan Grant rue Australia’s missed chances in the 1-0 loss
Former Socceroo Ned Zelic led the barrage of criticism of the side’s performance.
‘I don’t think anyone in Asia would have given them (Jordan) a chance in this opening game. They played like absolute lions,’ Bosnich after the match.
Fellow commentator Robbie Slater described the performance as poor.
‘It’s the story of the night — we got a lot of balls, I don’t know how many balls into the penalty area but you didn’t really feel like we were going to score,’ he said.
Former international Ned Zelic also described the match as disappointing.
‘Poor decision-making & lack of creativity from the Socceroos to break down a packed defence,’ he tweeted.
The Socceroos had 75 per cent of possession and still lost 1-0 in their opening Asian Cup clash, much to the frustration of national coach Graham Arnold (pictured)
Former international Craig Foster was more optimistic.
‘Congrats to Jordanians. Unbelievable defensive commitment, desperation. Keeper phenomenal game. Counter quick, aggressiveness in challenges. Well prepared physically, matched Aussies. Ikonomidis made a difference. Dynamic, forward runs, did well last game. Win game two.’
Cahill added: ‘A lot of work to do now but this is football.’
Many Socceroos fans were brutal in their analysis.
Fans and former Socceroos were quick to slam the side’s’ performance after the loss
‘Are you lot trying to outdo the cricket team to see who’s the worst? Jeez that was terrible,’ one tweeted.
Another added: ‘Pathetic. No pace in midfield, Open to counter attack as they cant get back quick enough.That is what ever opponent knows about Socceroos. Sick of the hype this team gets for poor results.’
Others blamed Socceroos coach Graham Arnold for the embarrassing result.
‘We are going backwards with Arnie. Need that plan B and C quick sticks, coach,’ one posted.
Soceroos fans begged Tim Cahill to come out of retirement following the shock loss
But some hopeful fans believe all is not lost.
‘Good news is the Socceroos lost to Korea in 2015 & won the Asian Cup. 24 teams now means four points from Palestine and Syria likely enough,’ one tweeted.
Powered on by a small but vocal following in the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Jordan held off a late onslaught by the reigning Asian champions in the second-half to leave the Socceroos with little margin for error in their remaining two group matches.
Socceroo Jackson Irvine summed up the reaction of the rest of Australia watching at home
Already struck by injury to key players such as Aaron Mooy, Martin Boyle, Daniel Arzani and Mat Leckie, the Socceroos suffered another blow before the match with Andrew Nabbout ruled out due to a groin strain.
Jamie Maclaren took his place in the centre of Australia’s three-pronged attack but failed to make much impact on the match as Graham Arnold’s men dominated possession but were largely ineffective up front.
Scottish-based star Tom Rogic had Australia’s best chance to level the game in the second half but somehow blazed his shot over from 12 yards after a cutback by Aziz Behich in the 72nd minute.
Awer Mabil, starting the match ahead of Perth Glory’s Chris Ikonomidis, also smacked the post with a shot in the second half.
There was late drama when Maclaren found the back of the net in the 87th minute but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Former Socceroo Craig Foster is hopeful of a better result in the Soceroos’ second crash
Australia also believed they had a good shout for a penalty late in the first half when a Robbie Kruse effort was blocked by a Jordanian defender but despite howls of protest Omani referee Ahmed Abu Bakar Al Kaf was unmoved.
The loss was sealed when veteran Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi’s double save to deny Ikonomidis and Rhyan Grant was followed by the final whistle.
The Socceroos play Palestine in a must win game on Friday.
‘We believe in ourselves, we believe in what we are doing and I expect to win the game,’ Arnold said afterwards.
The Socceroos’ bid to retain the Asian Cup has just gotten tougher after a horror start