Family time bolsters Australia ahead of crucial Asian Cup clash against Palestine
Defending champions Socceroos aim to bounce back from their shock opening defeat to Jordan on Friday
Australia defender Aziz Behich has said a family visit has given the squad added motivation for their 2019 Asian Cup match against Palestine as the Socceroos look to bounce back from their surprise opening defeat.
Defending champions Australia, who won the 2014 Asian Cup on home soil, lost their first Group B match to Jordan on Sunday, but a win against Palestine at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai on Friday will get their title defence back on track.
Ahead of the match, the Australia squad were given some time off to spend with their families, and Behich believes it was just what the players needed ahead of a crucial match.
“It was great, all the boys and the staff had their partners or family down,” the 28-year-old full-back, who plays his club football for PSV Eindhoven, told the Socceroos website.
“I was lucky enough to have my parents down from Melbourne and it’s great to see them. I don’t see them often obviously plying the trade overseas, so it was great for them to come in and it just breaks up the camp a little bit.
“We’re a very family-orientated team. Obviously family always comes first and when they are not here, us as a group here, all involved from staff to players, we’re another big family.
“[Manager Graham Arnold] is very big on that and with our family and their support is what drives us every day.”
Boosted by their family visits, Australia are determined to bounce back from their defeat to Jordan, and Behich insists the focus is squarely on their upcoming match.
“It’s full focus on Palestine now," he said. "Jordan is behind us, it’s not what we expected, not what we wanted, but just really looking forward to the next one.”
Fellow defender Milos Degenek also urged his teammates not to dwell on the Jordan result, and instead use the disappointment as motivation for the clash against Palestine.
“We want to go out there and show what we can do and put a good foot forward into going out of the group,” Degenek, 24, told the Socceroos website.
"Obviously we take all the positives out of the game, implement other things into the next game and start the game strong, and show what we’re all about.”
Degenek moved to Red Star Belgrade last summer and has become a regular fixture in the Serbian team's starting XI, sharing a pitch this season with the likes of Liverpool star Mohamed Salah during the Uefa Champions League group stage.
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Degenek's rise has earned him a place in the Australia team, and he has now played his first minutes of major tournament football for his country.
“It’s obviously massive for me. I was at the World Cup with the boys but I didn’t get to play but I was there and I was part of the family which I was very proud of,” Degenek said. “I’m very fortunate to get the chance to play for my country at an Asian Cup.”
Australia will be without right-back Josh Risdon, who picked up a groin injury during the first-half against Jordan. He is likely to be replaced in the starting line-up by Rhyan Grant.
Midfielder Tom Rogic is set to start despite breaking a bone in his left hand against Jordan, while Jamie Maclaren is expected to retain his place up front, with Andrew Nabbout yet to recover from a groin strain.
Palestine, meanwhile, will be without defender Mohamed Saleh, who is suspended after his red card picked up in the goalless draw against Syria.
Updated: January 11, 2019 10:58 AM