Three burning questions: Jordan v Australia

by Ben Somerford on Nov 13, 2019

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The Socceroos will play their final game of 2019 in the early hours of Friday morning (AEST) away to Jordan in our toughest test in this early stage of 2022 World Cup qualifying.

In fact, this match is Australia’s last currently listed competitive game until March next year, so we’d all like to enjoy that break with warm fuzzies, sitting top of our group and on the back of four consecutive wins.

Victory won’t be enough to start booking your 2022 flights to Qatar but it will go a long way towards navigating this phase, with a potential five-point buffer at the halfway mark.

GGArmy’s Ben Somerford asks three burning questions ahead of the game.

Will history repeat?
Jordan has a remarkable record against the Socceroos, which will worry coach Graham Arnold despite Australia’s current ranking of 44th in the world being 54 spots above the hosts.

The Jordanians have won all three of their matches against Australia in West Asia, including one at the Asian Cup earlier this year. The others were in 2012 and 2015.

Arnold will not have forgotten January’s 1-0 defeat where the Jordanians hit the Socceroos on the counter and defended deep. Breaking down an opponent with that approach has been an issue for Australia for a long time, given our lack of creativity, invention and X-factor.

Jordan, who’ve only conceded one goal in three games in qualifying so far, will know that and set out to reproduce January’s heroics which current coach Vital Borkelmans masterminded.

How do you break down a defensive opponent?
As the previous question reflects, Arnold should know what Jordan’s tactics will be and implement a strategy to counter that. Australia has encountered opponents with a defensive approach on plenty of occasions in Asia and often been left frustrated at the final whistle. It is a weakness of ours.

Jordan is a step above the likes of Chinese Taipei, Nepal and Kuwait whom Australia has already easily accounted for in qualifying. The Socceroos will need to be patient but not conservative. Likely starters Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic will need to set the tempo. Current conditions in Amman won’t be oppressive, so quick ball movement should be a priority to catch Jordan out where possible given they’ll likely be looking to park the bus and frustrate wherever possible.

But, of course, Jordan needs to win this game more than Australia at this stage, which should lead the hosts to be inclined to adventure. Rhyan Grant’s marauding runs down the flank could be a feature, as they have been throughout qualifying so far. They’ve actually been a reliable source of goals. Jackson Irvine’s endeavour will be a feature too, but the X-factor of a Martin Boyle, Awer Mabil or Ajdin Hrustic could be decisive.

Who starts?
It’s no easy task selecting this Socceroos’ XI despite the recent wins, with automatic starter Mathew Leckie unavailable due to the birth of his son. Injuries to Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren further deplete options.

As a result, Arnold will likely opt for Mooy and Rogic but they have struggled for game-time at club level lately. Jackson Irvine netted a double last time out and is a lock, while Jimmy Jeggo may play the holding midfield role he’s beginning to assume.

Brad Smith may have usurped Aziz Behich at left-back following club success, while Trent Sainsbury, Milos Degenek and Rhyan Grant look certain starters in defence behind Mat Ryan, despite Harry Souttar’s recent goals.

Adam Taggart and Mabil loom as the most dangerous attacking options while Hrustic and Boyle are potential impact players off the bench.