Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Syria’s Ahmad Al-Saleh blamed axed coach Bernd Stange “100 percent” on Monday for their problems at the Asian Cup as the war-torn nation plot a great escape against holders Australia.
Al-Saleh pointed the finger squarely at the German, who was unceremoniously sacked after a draw and a loss in Group B left the Syrians in the position of win or bust on Tuesday.
“I would blame the previous coach 100 percent. He didn’t have the right plans for us, and you can see the result,” the bearded centre back told reporters in Al Ain.
“As soon as Fajr (interim coach Fajr Ibrahim) arrived at the pitch, we knew his tactics and his plans. We all like him and we all wanted him as head coach.”
The much-travelled Stange, 70, was dumped after Syria’s derby defeat to neighbours Jordan and replaced by ex-Syria international Ibrahim on an interim basis.
“I know the players and they have known me for a long time,” said Ibrahim. “We know each other very well. It was no more than shaking hands and starting the training session.”
When the two teams last met in the World Cup playoffs in 2017, Syria gave Australia an almighty fright when they needed an extra-time winner from Tim Cahill to edge it 3-2 over two legs.
With thousands of Syrian fans expected, Ibrahim said he was sniffing an upset, pointing out Brazil’s seismic 7-1 defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals on home soil.
“We respect Australia, they are one of the favourites to win the title,” Al-Saleh said.
“But I’m sure we’re able to beat Australia. We scored at their ground and we can score against them again — even if Australia is probably the best team in Asia.”
Australia need only a draw to reach the last 16 and they are coming off a convincing 3-0 win over Palestine, after opening their campaign with a shock defeat to Jordan.
But goalkeeper Mat Ryan insisted the Socceroos would steer clear of the complacency that seemed to plague them when they slumped 1-0 in their first game.
“There’s been lessons learned,” he said. “We’re now moving on to this third game, it’s been a learning curve until now and we need to keep demonstrating that through our performances.
“We’re all ready and raring to go and we’re best prepared to go out and do what’s needed to be done to get the victory for tomorrow.”