The Australian coach wants more from the team after winning the World Cup playoffs

Ajdin Hrustic (C behind) scored a belated winner allowing Australia to win one victory since qualifying for the World Cup.  Photo: AFP
Ajdin Hrustic (C behind) scored a belated winner allowing Australia to win one victory since qualifying for the World Cup. Photo: AFP

AL-RAYYAN: Australian coach Graham Arnold warned his team that they must improve to beat Peru and fight for the fifth consecutive World Cup after Aydin Hrustic fired a late winner in a 2-1 victory in the playoffs over the United Arab Emirates in Doha.

The rejected volley of the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder in the 84th minute decided the feverish Asian playoff on Tuesday at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, which will host seven World Cup finals in November.

More than 4,000 UAE fans made up the majority of the audience in the 40,000-person arena in the Doha suburbs, where players were exposed to air conditioners to lower evening temperatures.

Australia will fight dangerous Peru on June 13 at the same stadium in a “do or die” clash in their quest for a place in the finals, and Arnold said he expects more from his players.

“We have to improve even more. I expect another big improvement after this game,” he said.

“Obviously one game at a time and I thought the UAE played a very good performance, a solid game, but we had good preparations … there was more cohesion with our game and after that game I expect us to be even better against Peru.

“My focus has been on our defense because we’ve been sloppy, conceding goals in the last few (FIFA) windows. We could have scored more, but at the same time there are things we need to clean up and in defense make it even sharper.”

Nineteen-year-old striker Harib Al-Maazmi, who scored the winning goal in the UAE’s surprising 1-0 win over South Korea that led them to the playoffs, was a constant setback in the first half.

– Fighting spirit –

He threatened after 18 minutes with a dangerous drive from the left wing and again 10 minutes before the break, and Socceroos goalkeeper Mathew Ryan performed a top block.

A few minutes into the second half, Al-Maazmi again forced Ryan into a low defense before attacking midfielder Jackson Irvine brought Australia into the lead.

Martin Boyle stole the ball on the right wing, took it into the box, and Irvine, who plays for German second division side St Pauli, threw it on a closer post.

Australia barely had time to enjoy the goal when Al-Maazmi found space again. His interception broke with Caio Canedo, a Brazilian who first received a East Timor passport and then qualified for the UAE 2020, who hit home from close range.

The match seemed destined for overtime when Hrustic, who recently won the Europa League with his German club, greeted the ball from a corner that was only half cleared, and his left-footed volley made a big turn and found the net.

“We conceded a goal, but we shouldn’t have,” Hrustic said.

“But we kept going, we kept fighting and we took our chance, and the goal for Australia was for all the guys, for the staff, because we went through a lot and it wasn’t easy.”

The UAE wanted to qualify for the World Cup only for the second time since their debut in 1990. Their Argentine coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena said the UAE players “lacked endurance in the last 15 minutes”.

New Zealand plays Costa Rica in Doha on June 14 and decides on the final qualifiers for the tournament, which begins on November 21.

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