Son admits to sleep struggles

Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min has admitted to struggling to be fully prepared for action at the Asian Cup, as he prepares to head back to his club.

The 26-year-old was unable to help South Korea avoid a shock quarter-final loss at the hands of Qatar, having headed to the tournament on the back of a gruelling schedule of games for Spurs since the start on December.

And Son told the Japan times that he had not been able to adjust to the change of time zones and had been struggling to sleep at time.

He said: "I wasn't fully prepared. I felt physically empty.

"I would rather not speak about it really, but I haven't felt right physically. I was losing sleep and I should have looked after my condition better.

"I thought I would start to feel better and grow into the tournament, but it just didn't happen.

"Many people expected big things of us and I'm annoyed at myself for not being able to step up. I know I didn't perform well."

Spurs will hope that Son can recover as quickly as possible, with their star striker Harry Kane sidelined by an ankle injury and not expected to return to training until March at the earliest.

Tottenham are in FA Cup fourth round action on Sunday when they make the short trip to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace.

Spurs are 8/1 to lift the FA Cup this season, with Manchester United available at 4/1 and Chelsea 5/1.

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Degenek: I ended our dreams

Defender Milos Degenek held his hands up after an error that cost Australia defeat to UAE in the Asian Cup quarter-finals.

It was the Red Star Belgrade player's back pass that resulted in the only goal of the game in Al Ain, with the hosts scoring through Ali Mabkhout in the second half.

It meant the Socceroos defence of the trophy is over, with UAE going through to meet Qatar in the semi-finals.

Degenek said: "Obviously we didn't go through tonight because of my mistake. I let the team down, let the boys down, let our country down.

"I feel bad for the boys because I ended our dreams. I made the mistake that shattered all our dreams, and not just ours but our country's but we didn't deserve it tonight I think."

The 24-year-old was in tears in the dressing room after the game, according to coach Graham Arnold.

But he didn't shy away from the cameras, as he owned up to the calamitous back pass which was intercepted by Mabkhout for his fourth goal of the tournament.

"I don't feel bad for myself as much as I do for the boys because the boys did not deserve to end the tournament that way tonight," said Degenek.

"I can live with myself and this mistake it's something I'll have to deal with but can't blame anyone else obviously."

The Socceroos exited the tournament at the same stage that Graham Arnold's men were infamously dumped from the Asian Cup in 2007.

Hull City's Jackson Irvine said he'd told Degenek after the game to get on his feet and keep his head up.

Irvine added: "He's been one of our most promising players, he's got a huge career ahead of him and, while I haven't seen the incident, I think he's too honest for his own good."

Iran are now 13/10 to win the Asian Cup, with their last-four opponents Japan priced at 12/5 and tournament hosts the UAE 6/1.

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Australia knocked out of Asian Cup

Australia's defence of the Asian Cup came to an end when they lost 1-0 to UAE in Al Ain, with a gift of a goal.

Ali Mabkhout scored the only goal of the quarter-final at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium midway through the second half, seizing on a poor backpass from Milos Degenek.

He was able to skip around keeper Mat Ryan and fire into an empty net to send the hosts through to a semi-final clash with Qatar.

Degenek gave Ryan, who had been the hero of the Round of 16 victory against Uzbekistan with a pair of penalty saves, no chance to prevent the winning goal.

It was Mabkhout's fourth goal of the tournament, putting him joint-second on the scoring table.

Australia had more shots and more possession than the hosts but weren't able to capitalise.

Trent Sainsbury flashed an early header over the bar before Ryan was called into action, palming away Ismail Al Hamadi's effort following a rapid breakaway.

The Socceroos almost broke the deadlock when Jamie Maclaren had a goal-bound header cleared off the line by defender Fares Juma, with Apostolos Giannou then seeing a shot from from distance tipped away by keeper Khalid Eisa.

Mabkhout headed over from close range just before the break, after being left unmarked by the Socceroos defence.

Graham Arnold's side continued to threaten in the second half, with Hull City's Jackson Irvine heading narrowly wide before Apostolos Giannou had an effort ruled out for offside.

After Mabkhout netted for the hosts Australia had chances to get back on terms but Mathew Leckie headed over from a corner and Awer Mabil fired wide from the final chance of the game.

UAE are 6/1 to win the Asian Cup, with Iran 13/10 ahead of a quarter-final with Japan – currently 12/5 to lift the trophy.

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Giannou in frame for Socceroos start

Striker Apostolos Giannou is set for his first start at the Asian Cup when Australia take on hosts the United Arab Emirates.

The Socceroos are without Tom Rogic through suspension for the quarter-final.

Coach Graham Arnold has flagged a possible tactical change since the penalty shootout victory against Uzbekistan in the Round of 16.

Giannou believes if he plays with two strikers it could bring the best out of himself and the team.

"I prefer to be the second striker in a game rather than the one who sits up there and waits but either way I'm happy … if I'm playing, I'm happy," he said. "It helps (with) attacking, as well – the more numbers you have up front, it's not that easy for the others to predict what you're going to do."

The Socceroos have used a 4-3-3- formation so far in the tournament but have struggled to dictate terms.

"It could surprise the other teams – maybe they think we'll play a certain way and we'll play a different way," said Giannou.

"That's up to the coaching team and coaches to find the way; we're just there to execute what they tell us."

Having only come into the squad as an injury replacement player when Martin Boyle was ruled out, Giannou has been a solid contributor off the bench in all four matches so far.

The 28-year-old was on target in the win over Palestine in the group stages and netted Australia's third penalty as they saw off Uzbekistan to make it to the last eight.

He's now in the frame to partner Jamie Maclaren in the front line, while the other options include a fit-again Mathew Leckie, who made a successful return from a hamstring injury in the Round of 16.

Australia are 19/20 to win their next game against the United Arab Emirates, who are 7/2 with the draw 21/10.

The Socceroos are 5/2 to reach the final.

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Socceroos through after shootout

Australia went through in unconvincing fashion to the Asian Cup quarter-finals, with a penalty shootout win against Uzbekistan.

The Socceroos won 4-2 on penalties in Al Ain after the previous 120 minutes had failed to produce a goal.

There was a shortage of attacking intent shown by both sides, which will leave Australia concerned ahead of their quarter-final clash with the United Arab Emirates.

Graham Arnold's team will need to improve against tournament the hosts, who edged past Kyrgyzstan 3-2 thanks to a penalty in extra time.

And they'll be without Tom Rogic at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, after he picked up a second yellow card during the tournament.

Arnold will have Hull City's Jackson Irvine in his mind for an attacking midfield role in the quarter-final, and could consider further changes to his starting side.

Chris Ikonomidis failed to fire up front for the Socceroos, with several poor touches in the final third, and a number of players were below their best.

The star of the victory was keeper Mat Ryan, who produced a pair of wonderful penalty shootout saves, first down the middle and then to his right.

Mathew Leckie then held his nerve to bury his penalty and send Australia through to the last eight.

Speaking of Ryan, Arnold said: "That is why he is in the Premier League…the two saves in the shootout showed what a top goalkeeper he is. He does a lot of homework, when he goes into a game he ticks all the boxes."

Ryan rescued Australia in the 10th minute when he denied Eldor Shomurodov from a one-on-one opportunity, and that proved to be just about the best chance of the match.

Leckie, sent on for Awer Mabil, teed up Rogic for a strike midway through the second half.

Regulation time produced few decent chances, though the Uzbeks were fortunate not to have to go through extra time with only ten men after Davronbek Khashimov avoided being shown a second yellow late in the game after fouling Ikonomidis.

The Socceroos pushed forward in extra time but were ultimately unable to fashion anything more than half-chances.

Uzbekistan ran out the game strongly with a flurry of late substitutions, but they too could not create anything meaningful going forward.

The Socceroos are 3/1 to reach the final, while Australia are 7/1 to win the Asian Cup outright.

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Meulensteen hails Ikonomidis potential

Australia assistant coach Rene Meulensteen believes in-form Chris Ikonomidis could be a success if he gets a second chance of playing in Europe.

Ikonomidis is rebuilding his career with Perth Glory after a tough three-year spell with Italian side Lazio.

The striker has six goals in his nine appearances with the Glory since he joined on a three-year deal before the start of the season and his form earned him a spot in the Socceroos squad for the Asian Cup, where he's had an impact.

The 23-year-old has started Australia's past two matches at the tournament, against Palestine and Syria, scoring one goal and provided four assists as the team booked their place in the competition's last 16.

Meulensteen rates the forward highly, and feels he could have a future back in Europe despite thing not having worked out for him the first time around.

Ikonomidis moved to Italy at the age of 16 and spent his youth career with Atalanta before Lazio signed him on a three-year contract in 2013.

However, he made just one start for the club and though he signed a new deal in 2015 he was loaned out three times, while he spent last season back in Australia, on loan with Western Sydney where he netted six times in 12 games.

Meulensteen said of him: "He can go as far as he wants because he's got the potential and personality, and the intelligence for it.

"He's an exciting player to watch, he makes something happen; he's got an eye for a pass, he can beat a man. I think he would suit very well in the Spanish league in a good team."

Australia are 8/11 to win their next game against Uzbekistan, who are 4/1, with the draw 11/4.

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Mabil says thanks to coach Arnold

Australia forward Awer Mabil dedicated his vital goal against Syria to coach Graham Arnold, after the 3-2 win that put the Socceroos into Asian Cup round of 16.

The FC Midtjylland striker fired in a superb curling effort from outside the box to give Arnold's side the lead in Al Ain.

It was his fourth in his first seven internationals, and he says he feels thrilled to be a part of an exciting squad under Arnold.

Speaking of his goal, Mabil said: "It was really nice, it means a lot. [Arnold] has given me a chance to help my country and it's a chance I'll always be thankful for."

The 23-year-old said he had dedicated his first Socceroos goal, in the friendly win over Kuwait in October, to the coach and was happy to be able to do so again on the big stage.

He raced over to the bench to celebrate with Arnold and the coaching staff after netting late in the first half.

"Today it was good to get an official goal and dedicate it to him to say thank you for the opportunity," he added. "There's always a pride to represent my country, and also be part of this group.

"The philosophy suits everybody and brings out the best in everybody. You can see in the last two games that we're carrying a good momentum; we still have a lot to give."

Mabil hadn't represented the Socceroos until Arnold took over as coach following last year's World Cup.

The former Adelaide United player got on the scoresheet on his debut against Kuwait after coming on as a substitute in the 4-0 victory, and now has three goals in the last four games.

Meanwhile, Adelaide United are 14/1 to win the A-League Grand Final.

The Reds are 13/10 to win their next game against Western Sydney, who are 19/10 with the draw 5/2.

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Okazaki eyes new challenge

Japan international Shinji Okazaki has admitted that he may leave Leicester City this month because of a lack of first-team opportunities.

The 32-year-old, who played a vital role in the Foxes' amazing Premier League title success in 2015/16, has only started one league match this season under manager Claude Puel.

Okazaki is annoyed that his lack of playing time led to him being omitted from Japan's squad for the Asian Cup.

"After three-and-a-half years, maybe it's time to move on," Okazaki said. "I can't feel satisfied as a player."

Okazaki's contract at the King Power Stadium expires at the end of this season and he has been linked with a switch to Huddersfield Town.

"I have no intention of quarrelling with the team," he added. "But I will make my feelings known.

"It's up to Leicester. Right now, I don't know whether they need me or not. Of course, (moving to) a team that wants me would be ideal."

Leicester are 12/5 to beat Wolves in their next Premier League match on Saturday and 12/1 to win the game 2-1. Meanwhile, Japan can be backed at 8/11 to win Group F at the Asian Cup. Uzbekistan are available at 23/20.

Mentality key to victory

Skipper Mark Milligan praised Australia's mental approach to the crunch game against Palestine at the Asian Cup.

The 3-0 victory left the Socceroos well-placed to advance to the knockout stages of a competition they won on home soil four years ago.

It came in the wake of a stunning 1-0 defeat to 109th-ranked Jordan in their opening match in Group B in Al Ain.

Milligan felt Graham Arnold's side had taken a proactive and composed approach to the match against Palestine. Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil struck inside the opening 20 minutes and substitute Apostolos Giannou headed home the third goal.

Milligan, who made a game-high 97 passes, said: "We worked on different ways to break them down but I think the most important thing was our mentality. We were a little bit more patient and we kept moving the ball quickly.

"We wanted to make sure we picked our moments to go forward, we wanted to make sure we hit our rotations and timings. We know what it's like when you don't have the ball – it can be very tough."

Australia can ensure they progress by earning a draw with Syria in their final group match on Tuesday.

They met the AFC's sixth-ranked side in the fourth round of qualifying for the last World Cup in October 2017.

The Socceroos, then under Ange Postecoglou, drew 1-1 away in the first leg and the second leg score in Sydney was the same after 90 minutes before Australia won via Tim Cahill's extra-time goal.

Milligan said of Syria: "They've got some quality in their team and we just need to make sure we control things from early on."

Australia are 1/2 to beat Syria, who are 7/1 with the draw 14/5. The Socceroos are 5/1 to win 1-0.

Maclaren delight at first Australia goal

Jamie Maclaren was happy to get off the mark for Australia, in their 3-0 Asian Cup victory against Palestine.

The Hibernian frontman broke his duck in his 10th appearance for the Socceroos, netting with a header from Tom Rogic's cross.

His goal on 18 minutes in Dubai gave Graham Arnold's side a lift, and when Awer Mabil made it 2-0 just two minutes later they had a stranglehold on the match.

Maclaren said of his goal: "It's been a long time coming…but I've just stayed on my path. I'm a goalscorer and it was going to come one way or another; many people say I can't head the ball but today I showed them."

He added: "Right from the start we scored two early goals so that really settles us. It's a great win from the boys and a clean sheet as well helps."

There was pressure on the Socceroos after they went down 1-0 in their first game to Jordan, but Chris Ikonomidis, who claimed assists on goals by Mabil and substitute Apostolos Giannou, said there had been no panic in the squad ahead of the Palestine match.

"We just stuck to our tactics throughout the week; it's a new era under Arnie and we're really finding our feet now," he added.

"We were a young front line out there today and it showed in our fluency up front, our diversity and interchanging positions."

Ikonomidis was one of three new faces in the Socceroos starting side following the Jordan loss.

Australia will face Syria in their final Group B game, knowing a draw will be enough to send them through.

The Socceroos are 1/2 to win their next game against Syria, who are 13/2 with the draw 14/5.

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