Jackson Irvine and Chris Ikonomidis have made strong cases to start Australia's next Asian Cup clash with Palestine after injecting some much-needed life into the team with their substitute appearances against Jordan.
Changes appear inevitable for Friday's Group B assignment in Dubai after a poor all-round performance from the Socceroos in their 1-0 loss, which should prompt coach Graham Arnold to test the depth he says he has in his 23-man squad.
Irvine and Ikonomidis didn't do their chances any harm. The former came on in the 74th minute while the latter entered the fray 10 minutes into the second half.
Both players added spark and each came agonisingly close to nabbing an equaliser in the dying seconds. Ikonomidis latched onto a good pass from Tom Rogic and made space for a shot but it was saved by Jordan gloveman Amir Shafi. The rebound fell to Irvine, but his effort was blocked on the goal line and the final whistle was blown just a few seconds later.
"They defended like that for most of the game – desperately, with body on the line," Irvine said. "You could see how much it meant to them and fair play to them, they've come away with an important victory. Just that clinical side to the game, it's definitely something we need to improve on."
Irvine, who has been in top goal-scoring touch for his club Hull City, felt he offered "something different" to the rest of his teammates.
"Any player who comes onto the pitch as a substitute, that's your job to lift the team and bring that freshness and energy," he said. "That's a side of the game that's always been one of my strengths. That's what I tried to do when I came on."
Ikonomidis, who has clearly had no trouble carrying his terrific form for Perth Glory into the international arena, believes he did much the same and said he was ready for more Socceroos minutes.
"I felt I added energy," Ikonomidis said. "That was my mission … fresh legs and I tried to give as much energy and a bit of attacking flair there. I know what's expected to play at this level.
"Confidence plays a big part in football and coming off a season where I've scored six goals in eight games or whatever, it definitely gives you that added confidence to play in these kind of matches."
Arnold could be forced to making at least one change, with right-back Josh Risdon (groin) taken off at half-time due to injury. That may have had something to do with why he was so out-of-sorts early, but his replacement Rhyan Grant was lively and may have done enough to put his nose in front.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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