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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 January 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 JANUARY 2015 27 SPORT Socceroos blitz opening games Australia no longer reliant on stalwart Tim Cahill to find the net Having scored eight goals in its opening two Asian Cup matches, Australia has rocketed to the top of Group A by a whopping five goal difference. The group, featuring Korea Republic, Kuwait and Oman, has already been decided, after wins to both the Socceroos and Korea Republic in their opening two matches, seeing them progress to the qualifying final stage. The Socceroos' eight goals have come from eight differ- ent goal-scorers, and naturally champion Tim Cahill is one of those on the score sheet. But he has enjoyed a freer tournament, with the likes of James Troisi, Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Tomi Juric, Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse also registering goals. For Greek Australian James Troisi, his goal in the team's opening round match against Kuwait was his second in Socceroos colours. Australia has transformed itself from seemingly 'easybeats' (ranked 100 in the world on official FIFA rankings) to a team possessed in only two games - with the likes of China coach Alain Perrin saying a possible semifinal clash against the Socceroos isn't ideal. Importantly for the boys in green and gold, their second game against Oman on Tuesday was (only) the second time in over 12 months the team held a clean-sheet - the other game a nil-all draw against the United Arab Emirates in October. Roo-beauty! PHOTO: TWITTER/@FIFACOM And that result was without inspirational captain Mile Jedinak, who missed out after suffering an ankle injury in the game against Kuwait. The Socceroos emphatically defeated the Omanis 4-0, and in doing so dominated possession (holding the ball 70 per cent of the time), with 15 more shots and completing close to 400 more passes than their opponent. Oman is seven places above Australia on official FIFA rankings and has recently frustrated the Socceroos. Despite its healthy record against Oman, in their previous three matches the Socceroos have suffered a defeat and two draws. When captain Mile Jedinak was ruled out with an ankle sprain alarm bells starting ringing, but his replacement Melbourne Victory captain Mark Milligan, along with Tim Cahill, who wore the captain's arm-band, were nothing short of courageous. After the clash, coach Ange Postecoglou told the media he was impressed by the balance in his side. "The guys, as a unit, have really embraced what we're doing and really understood that for us to have any sort of success in this tournament, it's going to be a collective effort," Postecoglou said. "The most pleasing thing is just seeing the whole group really embrace what we're doing and embrace this challenge. "There hasn't been a person Socceroos Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie. who hasn't been a contributor so far." Postecoglou has continued to ask for patience, whilst evolving his young troops, and his persistence is (without jumping the gun) coming to fruition. But he may have further headaches to face tonight, with reports suggesting Jedinak still has question marks over his fitness ahead of the team's final group-stage clash against South Korea in Brisbane. Despite the side’s progression, tonight's match will be anything but a dead rubber. Both will be gunning for the three points to avoid crossing paths with Japan until at least the final (if all goes accord- ingly) - that's if the Blue Samurai finishes atop its group, as expected. And importantly, during the week, Socceroos forward Robbie Kruse said the team was focused on maintaining its form. "We're only two games in and we're focused on that Korean game to try and top the group," he told the media. "Obviously Korea are one of the strongest nations in Asia so it's going to be extremely tough." Since 2009 both teams have shared the spoils, with a win apiece and two draws. Their last outing, in Seoul 18 months ago, ended in a nil-all draw. On precedent, Australia would be happy with the Kyrgios still under injury cloud Loses his first competitive match in over four months JOHN PYRROS A dejected Nick Kyrgios bowed out of the Sydney International, losing his first competitive match in over four months to Pole Jerzy Janowicz 6-1, 6-7 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5). The world number 50 was smashed all over the court in the first set by his big serving opponent, struggling to get into rhythm, with a back strain that has kept him out for over two weeks seemingly getting the better of him. Despite taking the match to an eventual tight three sets, the result suggests the 19-year-old is still well underdone coming into the year's first grand slam starting Monday. Nick's mother Nill Kyrgios told Neos Kosmos despite the injury and limited practice he was still disappointed in his game. "His shots [were limited] and we could see that, but I think Nick just being Nick he's disappointed in himself thinking he should have done better, I guess, but he played so well all things considered. He didn't lose his nerve, he was fantastic, he didn't hit a ball out of court he didn't break a racquet, it was just fantastic," Nill said. She admitted her son was underprepared going into the Australian Open, with a lack of match practice hindering his preparations. But there is good news for Australia's top ranked men's player, with his physiotherapist reassuring him the damage is sustainable. "The pain is there [but] his physiotherapist is constantly informing him that it will not get any worse. In saying that, it will get a lot better if he doesn't play, but if he does play and manages the injury, the pain and the body, it will not get any worse," Nill said. "He really needs to stretch and become a bit more flexible. The more he loosens up, the easier it becomes, as you could see on the court [Tuesday]. Once he gradually got into it and warmed up the back it was a massive help." Kyrgios is coming into 2015 after a breakout 2014 and has found praise from world number one Novak Djokovic, but the external pressures and expectations are not something he gets too involved with. Despite his social character he tends not to talk about his fame and achievements thus far, Nill said. "We're trying to get him to talk about it more, what the expectation is and trying to nut out whether we care about expectations. I mean he's a showman, he loves being out there." "The [crowd] expectation is there and I don't know, it's hard, but Nick deals with it differently through the media, he's very good, he hides his true nerves. He speaks well, he's cool, calm and collected and says the right things and I think that's just him being intelligent," Nill said. Despite feeling "devastated" and "slightly helpless" when it comes to his injuries, Nill is enjoying having her son home for an extended period, and is doing everything she can to help him prepare for Melbourne. Kyrgios will stay in Australia beyond the Open to fully recover before his next tournament in France, in a bid to continue working his way up the ranks. "Now that he's in the 50 his main aim is to play a full tour and to stay as injury free as possible but he has to commit. He has to build strength, build his core and maintain his body and complete the tour up until the tail end." PHOTO: TWITTER/@FIFACOM status-quo, requiring only a draw to see it top the table. And Postecoglou has warned he won't be complacent. "We have got another big game on Saturday and it's a game we want to play well and win and improve," Postecoglou said during the week. "And I will make changes again. "I have made changes, not because I want to rest people or give people a chance (with players pushing for opportunities)." Australia's home crowd advantage may prove the difference tonight. Group A match three: Australia v South Korea Brisbane Stadium, Brisbane Kick-off: 8.00 pm AEDT A dejected Nick Kyrgios at the Sydney International. PHOTO: AAP IMAGE/DAN HIMBRECHTS.
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