Asian Cup: Rocky road no problem, says Aussie coach
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou insisted the hosts can still win their first Asian Cup despite suffering a setback against South Korea in their final group game.
After slamming four goals past Kuwait and Oman, the Socceroos faltered on Saturday, losing 1-0 after Postecoglou`s decision to bench Tim Cahill and Robbie Kruse backfired.
Australia, runners-up to Japan in 2011, finished behind South Korea in Group A and now face China in the quarter-finals -- again on Brisbane`s pudding of a pitch -- before a likely semi with defending champions Japan.
The Socceroos will be without key central defender Matthew Spiranovic against China after he picked up a second yellow card, but captain Mile Jedinak`s return from an ankle injury will be a a huge boost.
"Mile trained this morning, he`ll be right for Thursday -- he`ll be fine," said Postecoglou, while attempting to put a positive spin on his side`s defeat.
"The route to the final would be very difficult no matter which way you went," he shrugged. "We conceded a pretty poor goal, we switched off.
"But I can`t fault the players. They gave it everything and right to the end we created chances, but it wasn`t to be. Their goalkeeper made some great saves and we just couldn`t get the result we wanted. We dominated the game but ultimately they get the reward."
Lee Jeong-Hyeop`s strike after 32 minutes proved the match-winner, the shock South Korean call-up celebrating by snapping a military salute, as required of players from the K-League`s army side Sangmu Phoenix.
South Korea, World Cup semi-finalists in 2002 but without a title at Asia`s showcase event in 55 years, take on either Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan in Melbourne on Thursday.
Postecoglou, meanwhile, remained defiant.
"From now on it comes down to 90 minutes of football," he said. "If we perform again like that, we will be hard to beat. The only negative for us was the result."
While Australia carved out the best chances, Postecoglou faced questions over opting to rest Cahill and Kruse, who gave the home side a lift when introduced with 20 minutes to go.
"We had three games in eight days and we knew tonight would be difficult because of the conditions, and it would take a lot out of them," he said, defending starting forwards Tomi Juric and Nathan Burns.
"(Juric and Burns) provide depth for us in those front positions. On another night they both could have had a goal. We put out a team we thought could win the game."