Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury said the one-match suspension he served during Australia’s 3-2 win against Syria in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™ gave him a different perspective on the game.
Sainsbury was forced to sit out the Socceroos’ final Group B fixture after accruing consecutive yellow cards against Jordan and Palestine.
And while the PSV Eindhoven defender lamented the suspension, being on the sideline offered him the chance to analyse Australia’s performances with a fresh pair of eyes.
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“Obviously it wasn’t nice being outside watching in, but at the same time it gave me a different perspective,” said Sainsbury.
“I get to see some of the key passes that can be made in the games, get to see what the coaches see.
“Plus it gave me a bit of a refresher and I can take that into the next game.”
The 27-year-old has been in fine form under Graham Arnold, developing a mature understanding with his centre-back partner which has included Milos Degenek, Mark Milligan and Matt Jurman.
Indeed, according to Sainsbury, such a large, adaptable squad is vital in tournaments such as the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™, where all hands on deck are needed for an intense campaign.
Those hands will be needed on Tuesday morning (1:00am AEDT) as the Socceroos take on Uzbekistan in their do-or-die, Round of 16 clash for a spot in the quarter-finals.
“It’s important to have the depth in the squad,” said Sainsbury.
“When you come to tournaments like this, anything can happen — suspensions, there could be an injury.
“But at the same time we’ve got boys who are going to step up and take that leadership into the match and it showed the other day in the game.
“They handled the pressure very well and the boys came out the other side with the win.”
Leckie building towards full fitness
In promising signs for the Socceroos, it seems star winger Mathew Leckie is close to returning to full fitness.
The 27-year-old, who plies his trade for Hertha Berlin in Germany’s Bundesliga, was rested for Australia’s group games to nurse a hamstring injury he’d sustained while playing for his club.
Sainsbury believes that now, after weeks of rehab with the Socceroos’ medical staff, Leckie may be closing in on a return to action.
“It’s nice to see him come back — he’s looking sharp, he’s looking very strong and quick out there today so I expect him to be back very soon,” said Sainsbury.
“If he does get to take part in this next game, it’s all good for us, we’ve got an extra cog to the arsenal and take it on further into the tournament.”
The Socceroos face Uzbekistan at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Tuesday, January 22 at 1:00am (AEDT).
The game will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS 505.