Oman demolition a ‘marker’ for Australia’s Asian Cup pursuit: Milligan
The Socceroos are taking what they can from their surprisingly simple 5-0 victory over Oman on the eve of the Asian Cup, with skipper Mark Milligan confident it will set the tone for how they tackle the tournament.
Australia open their defence of their continental title against Jordan next Sunday in Dubai and will take supreme confidence into that fixture after dispatching an abject Pim Verbeek-led Oman in their final warm-up friendly.
"We know any tournament situation you have to start well," Milligan said. "We know that its a long tournament and well build. But we want to put our marker down from the beginning.
"We wanted to use [it) to fine-tune a few things. And we wanted to get into the habit of scoring goals. Weve already gotten into the habit of scoring goals in training and we wanted to continue that. We ticked a number of boxes."
Milligan surprisingly started the match in midfield, not in defence where he played every match of the World Cup in Russia.
It could be a pointer to where the 33-year-old will be deployed against Jordan – but, then again, substitute midfielders Massimo Luongo and Jackson Irvine impressed when they came on in the second half, with the latter scoring the fifth goal in the embers of the match.
Milligan said he had no idea Arnold was considering him in midfield until the night before facing Oman.
"Most of the conversations weve had have been around centre-back and obviously with the schedule of players and payers having played a couple of days ago, at the moment its a little bit of a juggling act. I just like being involved," he said. "Theres a lot of games coming up. If we plan on going all the way, which obviously we do, weve shown over the last couple of years that you need to use your squad. If that involves at some stage me playing in midfield or at the back it doesnt bother me."
Milligan's move to midfield meant a starting berth for Milos Degenek, one of Australia's most in-form defenders. Degenek said the match against Oman was his 35th outing of the season already, with his club Red Star Belgrade's calendar crammed due to their UEFA Champions League involvement.
"I think since mid-July I've played every three days. I feel fine," he said. "It's just how you adapt to that, how you feel psychologically. Even if I was tired, you don't feel that because you're playing for your country."
Milligan is one of only eight players in the current Socceroos squad who were part of the 2015 Asian Cup win on home soil, and said he believed Australia had the right mix to repeat that success.
"Its just a little bit more difficult trying to go back-to-back. You start the tournament with a big target on your back," he said.
"But I believe in this group. We have a good mix of experience and young boys whove had experience now, who are at a good age. The way that Arnie has us playing, it suits the players we have and the mindset of the group wants to do well."
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.