That`s Amoory - not Messi, says Aussie boss

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said Tuesday`s Asian Cup semi-final in Newcastle between the free-scoring Socceroos and the tournament`s surprise package United Arab Emirates is not about the new "Messi or Ronaldo".

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 26, 2015, 13:41 PM IST
That`s Amoory - not Messi, says Aussie boss

Sydney: Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said Tuesday`s Asian Cup semi-final in Newcastle between the free-scoring Socceroos and the tournament`s surprise package United Arab Emirates is not about the new "Messi or Ronaldo".

The bushy-haired Omar Abdulrahman has excelled in the Gulf side`s sensational run to the last four, capped by their stunning knockout of defending champions Japan, drawing excitable comparisons with some of the game`s biggest stars.

But Postecoglou sniffed: "The Chinese had the Chinese Ronaldo, Maradona. Everyone has a Messi or Maradona. 

"(Abdulrahman) is a good player, so is (Ali) Mabkhout up front," the Socceroos coach added, refusing to single out the UAE danger man, whose jaw-dropping "panenka" penalty against the Blue Samurai in the quarter-finals underlined his prodigious talent.

The 23-year-old Abdulrahman -- whose idol is France great Zinedine Zidane -- has been one of the standout performers of the tournament, his creativity helping forward Mabkhout to four goals.

Al Jazira sharp-shooter Mabkhout is in a rich vein of form, with nine goals in his last eight outings for his country, and is in with a chance of winning the Asian Cup`s golden boot.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali has worked with the bulk of his squad for over 10 years -- a fact Postecoglou says makes the Emiratis, appearing in their first semi-final since 1996, a formidable opponent. 

"Every team in Asia has technically gifted players. The ones who use them better are the ones who have a really cohesive team and I think UAE have one of those squads," the Socceroos boss said.

"That is where the danger lies, rather than with individuals," he added, adopting a softer line than that of defender Trent Sainsbury, who suggested Abdulrahman was not a hard worker and promised to "get in his face".

Ali dismissed reports that the Al Ain midfielder, who has previously been linked with Manchester City, was seen hobbling as he arrived for a training session on Sunday.

"He was not limping, he was running normally. Everybody is ready to play," said the coach.

Australia`s inspirational captain Mile Jedinak will have the job of subduing the player nicknamed "Amoory" in what promises to be one of the tastiest clashes of the tournament so far.

"The focus for myself is not one player and I don`t think it should be. They have a lot of potential threat in that team," Jedinak said on Monday.

The skipper added that he`d come through the quarter-final game against China without any issues after missing Australia`s win over Oman and loss to South Korea through injury.Australia, runners-up to Japan in 2011, have had an extra day`s rest after the 2-0 win over China, 24 hours before UAE stunned Japan on penalties on Friday, and the Socceroos will be hot favourites.

Postecoglou has Matthew Spiranovic back from suspension and said he had a full squad to choose from after there were concerns over Ivan Franjic and Mathew Leckie, who were seen with ice packs on their hamstrings during training Sunday.

"Everyone`s recovered really well from the quarter-final game," said the 49-year-old. 

"We`re really looking forward to tomorrow, it`s a sell-out, there will be great atmosphere and we`re expecting a tough game against a very tough opponent."

Postecoglou added that he would continue his policy of tinkering with his starting line-up for the match at port city Newcastle`s modest, 23,000-seat stadium.

"We`ll make some changes and put out a team that we think will be successful tomorrow night," he told reporters, adding that he hoped to "avoid" penalties.

"My view is we`re going to try to avoid them if possible," he told reporters on Monday. "And then if we have to take them, we have to take them.

"My view is we`re going to try to avoid them if possible," he said. "And then if we have to take them, we have to take them."