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Aus' Duke Injured, Arnold Confident in Cup Clash

 Aus' Duke Injured, Arnold Confident in Cup Clash

Mitchell Duke of Australia
 Mitchell Duke of Australia in action during the AFC Asian Cup Group B match between Syria and Australia at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on January 18, 2024 in Doha, Qatar. (Image-Getty)

Australia's forward, Mitchell Duke, will be absent from their final Asian Cup group match against Uzbekistan due to a hamstring injury, as confirmed by coach Graham Arnold on Monday. Despite Duke's absence, Australia has already secured a spot in the last 16 and is guaranteed to finish in the top two of Group B with six points, while Uzbekistan trails behind with two points.

Arnold disclosed the news, stating, "I'll be honest, Mitch Duke is out of this game. Just a slight hamstring (injury) and with the short turnaround that we have." Duke, who is the top scorer in the squad with 12 international goals, will be missed, and Arnold expressed his hope that young talents will step up in his absence. Notably, Melbourne City's prolific striker Jamie Maclaren and experienced winger Mathew Leckie were not called up for the tournament.

Reflecting on his coaching tenure since 2018, Arnold emphasized the ongoing development of players to strengthen the squad, acknowledging the need for replacements for older players who may not feature in the next World Cup. He assured that while there will be changes, they won't compromise the strength of the starting 11.

Despite Australia's proficiency in set pieces, their effectiveness has been limited in the Asian Cup. Arnold credited opposing teams for studying and successfully defending against Australia's set-piece strategies. He acknowledged the need for improvement in delivery and revealed plans to address this in training.

Arnold defended Australia's style of play amid criticism, asserting that they are an attacking team that knows how to defend. He pointed to statistics from the first two games, highlighting Australia's high number of touches in the penalty box, challenging the perception that the 2015 champions play overly defensively.

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