AL AIN • Australia coach Graham Arnold was defiant against criticism that his side were unable to create chances, after the Socceroos made the worst possible start to the defence of their Asian Cup crown yesterday with a 1-0 defeat by unfancied Jordan.
The Aussies, who won the title on home soil four years ago, dominated for long spells but failed to find a way to cancel out Anas Bani Yaseen's header in the Group B clash at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in the United Arab Emirates.
"We gave away a sloppy goal and started slowly but, in the second half, we totally controlled the game and, on any other day, we could have scored and won the game," Arnold insisted after the match.
He also dismissed the suggestion that his side's approach to the game was arrogant, having previously stated that he expected his side to beat the Jordanians.
The 55-year-old added that the Socceroos will "dust ourselves off, recover well and mentally prepare" for the next game against Palestine.
While he remained defiant, his captain Mark Milligan admitted that nerves got the better of the team.
NOT TIME TO PANIC YET
We gave away a sloppy goal and started slowly but, in the second half, we totally controlled the game and, on any other day, we could have scored and won the game.
GRAHAM ARNOLD, Australia coach, insists his side played well despite the defeat by 109-ranked Jordan.
"The start of the game was lethargic, maybe a few nerves," he said. "It's the first time in a tournament situation for some of the boys."
Vital Borkelmans' Jordan, who are 68 places behind the Aussies (41st) in the Fifa world rankings, were resolute in defence.
The Socceroos went into half-time trailing by a goal and were fortunate not to be further behind.
Centre-back Bani Yaseen put his side in front in the 26th minute when he was given the time and space to head home Baha Abdelrahman's corner unchallenged, powering the ball beyond the flat-footed goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
"We knew where their dangers were going to come from and, on a set piece, we can't be conceding those goals," Milligan added.
"We know we need to be better, but there's still good signs, we know we have to execute better.
"I'm lucky I've got a great bunch of boys, this will hurt everyone, it's hurting me. We'll let Arnie have his say and get to work."
Four minutes later, Abdelrahman almost added a second when his free kick from the edge of the area speared towards goal, only for Ryan to push the ball onto the woodwork before it was cleared.
For all their possession in the opposition half, Australia crafted few clear opportunities, with Awer Mabil's shot coming back off goalkeeper Amer Shafi's legs and Jamie MacLaren heading over the bar.
Mabil hit the woodwork late in the second half as Australia grew increasingly desperate to find an equaliser and Shafi was kept busy until the final kick of the game as Jordan held on for a famous win over their more illustrious opponents.
Australia fans took to social media to blast Arnold and his team.
"So much wrong with that #Socceroos display. Lacking quality & composure, passion & desire. Huge amount of work to do," wrote one user. "Jordan implemented their game plan perfectly, we didn't even have one," said another.
The defeat leaves the Aussies with much to ponder ahead of Friday's game against Palestine, a must-win if they want to get their title defence back on track.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN