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The complete Socceroos Asian Cup guide: Who, when, where… and can we win?

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Socceroos Asian Cup 2024 Guide

Australia’s Asian Cup history is short but sweet. Nearly 10 years ago, Ange Postecoglou’s side lifted the trophy in front of 80,000 raucous fans in Homebush.

With the 2023 instalment of the competition nearly here, does Graham Arnold’s side have any hope of a repeat?

In 2019, the Socceroos were eliminated from the Asian Cup in the Quarter Finals by hosts the United Arab Emirates. Few remain from that disappointing and humbling defeat. Those who do survived a tense, treacherous road to 2022’s World Cup and then a largely successful run to the Round of 16 to become beloved national heroes.

Whether this iteration of Australia is better or worse than their forefathers in 2019 can only be answered at the Asian Cup. Some would argue there are overwhelmingly positive signs, boosted by an influx of exciting young talent and players developing their game regularly in Europe. 

Arnie Hero
Australian coach, Graham Arnold, could cement himself as one of the nation’s greats with Asian Cup victory

Success at the tournament lies in whether Arnie can emulate Ange and bring the trophy to Australian shores.

Ahead of the 2023 Asian Cup, here’s a complete rundown of everything Socceroos-related you need to know.

The ultimate Socceroos Asian Cup guide

When is the 2023 Asian Cup?

January 12 — February 10, 2024

Dispute being labelled as the 2023 Asian Cup, the tournament kicks off on 12 January 2024 and runs through to 10 February. 

Who’s hosting the tournament?

Much like the previous World Cup, Qatar will host the Asian Cup.

And what about Australia’s group stage matches?

Drawn in Group B, the Socceroos kick their tournament off against India in their opening group game, then Syria, before rounding off the group stage with their toughest test against Uzbekistan.

Australia’s Group B matches

Australia (#25) v India (#102), Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, 13 January 2024, 10:30 pm AEDT

Australia (#25) v Syria (#91), Jassin Bin Hammad Stadium, 18 January 2024, 10:30 pm AEDT

Australia (#25) v Uzbekistan (#68), Al Janoub Stadium, 23 January 2024, 10:30 pm AEDT

How can I watch the Socceroos’ Asian Cup matches?

Every single Socceroos match will be live and free across Network 10, with the entire tournament also available to stream via Paramount+.

Are there any injury concerns ahead of the tournament?

Graham Arnold’s most significant pre-tournament headache comes in the form of goalkeeper and captain Mat Ryan, who has a fractured cheekbone. Ryan is arguably Australia’s best player and has been since his emergence into the squad.

Elsewhere, Mathew Leckie is racing the clock to recover from a hamstring injury, so too is his Melbourne City teammate James Maclaren, who’s been plagued by an ankle issue. 

Middlesbrough’s Riley McGree also hasn’t played since October due to a foot injury, while Nathaniel Atkinson looks set to overcome his ankle worries to stake his selection claim.

Who’s Australia’s most important player?

Should Mat Ryan be fit, it is him. But in the event the AZ Alkmaar shot-stopper cannot overcome his fractured cheekbone in time for the tournament, it’s hard to look past Harry Souttar as Australia’s most crucial element.

At nearly two metres tall, the Leicester City man is not only a monumental physical presence in the heart of Australia’s defence, repelling balls with limbs longer than some opponents are tall, he’s also an incredibly dangerous set piece threat.

Despite falling out of favour at Leicester this season in the Championship – he’s played just two matches – Souttar is undoubtedly one of the first names on Graham Arnold’s team sheets.

harry souttar, socceroos
Graham Arnold’s most trusted deputy, Harry Souttar, is an enormous presence for the Socceroos

Remarkably, Souttar enters the Asian Cup as the second highest-scoring active Socceroo with 10 goals in 21 games, behind only Leckie (14), Mitch Duke (11), and Maclaren (11).

In possession, Souttar is a crucial to Graham Arnold’s playstyle. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a capable dribbler, the defender’s greatest asset is his direct, accurate long balls, which played a core element during the Socceroos’ last visit to Qatar.

Who should Australia fear the most?

JAPAN

Japan is the obvious answer here. Of all the Asian nations, the Japanese boast the strongest side with a tactical acumen capable of rivalling some of Europe’s footballing juggernauts; just ask Spain and Germany.

The Japanese squad is unrivalled in the Asian confederation, featuring a host of talented stars plying their trade right across Europe, including; Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu, Takumi Minamino of Monaco, Wataru Endo from Liverpool, Real Sociedad’s dazzling attacker Takefusa Kubo, and Kaoru Mitoma of Brighton.

Aside from the stacked Samurai Blue, South Korea is another frightening proposition for any Asian nation, due in large part to their extremely talented trio of stars: Kim Min Jae of Bayern Munich, Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son – who scored in the 2015 final – and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kang-In Lee. 

What are the Socceroos’ realistic chances of winning it all?

When you consider the talent in the Japanese and South Korean squads, as well as the headaches sides like Iran and even hosts Qatar can cause, it’s easy to write the Socceroos off. 

But, that’s just what they want you to do. Graham Arnold’s side grows an extra leg when they’re given no chance of achieving anything, 2022’s World Cup perfectly encapsulated this.

While ‘Arnie-ball’ may not be the prettiest, its roots in pragmatism are highly effective. Australia’s defensive line is well-drilled and difficult to break down, with two solid banks of four forming the ultimate barrier for opposition attacks.

While in Mitch Duke, Graham Arnold has a trusted striker more adept at holding the ball up and dragging the team forward than putting the ball in the back of the net. 

While some don’t agree with his selection due to a poor goalscoring record, Duke’s presence is crucial when the Socceroos win defensive duels, as he offers a reliable outlet pass that the team can build quick attacks from.

Individually, Australia may not have the necessary quality to topple some of Asia’s giants. But they said David couldn’t defeat Goliath, and look at him now.

Football is about the collective more than anything else. Well-drilled sides who trust their tactical set-up and understand their playstyle induce many migraines across world football, just look at any Sean Dyche side. 

Pound-for-pound, the Socceroos might not be the juggernaut they were in the mid-2000s, but as a unit, there hasn’t been a more impressive and effective national side since Ange Postecoglou held the reins.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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