Web Stories Thursday, February 29

Australia failed to sparkle but joined hosts and holders Qatar in the Asian Cup knockout rounds on Thursday, with Uzbekistan in pole position to join them.

Jackson Irvine scored the only goal in a stodgy 1-0 victory over Syria to put the Socceroos into the last 16 with a game to spare.

With one round of matches to go, Australia top Group B with a perfect six points, two ahead of Uzbekistan.

Syria have one point and India no points and no goals.

Uzbekistan only need a point from their final game – against Australia on Tuesday – to guarantee they go through after easing to a 3-0 win over India.

Australia and Syria mustered only one shot on target each in their game, but Socceroos coach Graham Arnold dismissed the suggestion that his side had been lucky to win.

“The most important thing for us is our mentality, our work rate and keeping a clean sheet,” said Arnold, who took Australia to the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup, before losing 2-1 to eventual champions Argentina.

“Clean sheets win tournaments,” added Arnold, whose team beat India 2-0 in their opening game and are considered one of the contenders to win the Asian Cup.

Australia won the title in 2015 on home soil.

They had more of the ball against a stubborn Syria but struggled to break their opponents down.

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