THE substitution of Canowindra’s Rhyan Grant into Sunday night’s AFC Asian Cup opener against Jordan put some spark into the Socceroos.
However, it wasn’t enough to turn around the 1-0 deficit the defending champions had suffered before he was brought on at half-time.
Grant was substituted on for Josh Risdon at right back but played an advanced role when the Socceroos were in possession, often playing ahead of right half Mark Milligan.
His positioning helped created some opportunities for the Australians early in the second half while he also put in a cross to an open Jackson Irvine, whose header was off target.
In the end a header from Jordanian defender Anas Bani-Yaseen was all that stood between the two sides, leaving the Australians to ponder their next move against Palestine this Friday.
Socceroos finished the match with 77 per cent possession but lacked speed in attack.
A tougher assignment
The task has been made tougher for the Australians after stay midfielder Aaron Mooy was ruled out with a knee injury. Additionally, Matthew Leckie could miss the entire tournament after suffering a hamstring injury.
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The loss and the injuries are a major setback for the Socceroos, who have otherwise proven tough to contain in their matches under new coach Graham Arnold, winning three of their four games and drawing against South Korea.
It was the last two of those lead up games where Grant made his first appearance for the senior national side, impressing in wins over Lebanon (3-0) and Oman (5-0).
Socceroos go into the tournament as defending champions, the biggest event for the Australian national side outside of the World Cup.
The Australians are ostensibly one of the favourites at the tournament considering they carry the second highest international ranking into the event, only behind Iran.
Socceroos’ other group games at the Asian Cup will come against Palestine (Friday) and Syria (January 16).
Grant, who will be taking part in the tournament for the first time, maintains Central West’s representation at the tournament after Nathan Burns took part in the successful 2015 edition.
Four teams have managed to defend Asian Cup titles. South Korea achieved the feat in 1956 and 1960, while Iran took out three straight in 1968, 1972 and 1976. Additionally, Saudi Arabia doubled up in 1984 and 1988 and Japan in 2000 and 2004.
AFC Asian Cup – Socceroos Match Times (AEDT)
- Friday vs Palestine at 10pm
- Jan 16 vs Syria at 12.30am