AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Mabil: Memorable celebration was to support mental health

Leave a comment

It turns out there was a bit more to say about the outstanding goal from Australia’s Awer Mabil at the Asian Cup, thanks to his celebration.

Mabil held his hand over his mouth and two fingers in front of his forehead after scoring the left-footed rip, and said his idea is to help spread the word that it’s okay to talk about mental health issues.

[ MORE: 2019 Asian Cup news ]

The two fingers represent peace to the mind, while Mabil says the covering of the mouth is a plea to speak freely. From the BBC:

“The reason [people] go quiet is mainly because they don’t know what the reaction is going to be from the mainstream society,” he said.

“A lot of people worry about what others think but I honestly think you should not be afraid of what others think. Those people who are afraid to open up, this is for them, for them to open up and make them feel this is okay.”

Mabil, 23, plays for Danish power Midtjylland, where has five goals and nine assists this season.

The BBC notes that Mabil was born at a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Australia as a child as part of a resettlement program.

Asian Cup: Mabil scores beauty as Australia goes through (video)

AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty
Leave a comment

AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) Australia is through to the knockout rounds at the Asian Cup, although the defending champion hasn’t made it look pretty.

Australia needed a stoppage-time goal from Tom Rogic to beat Syria 3-2 on Tuesday after twice letting leads slip. A draw would have been enough to finish runner-up in Group B behind Jordan – which beat Australia 1-0 in their opening game – and the title holder was below its best in eliminating a resolute Syrian team, which finished last in the group.

[ MORE: 2019 Asian Cup news ]

Palestine’s 0-0 draw with Jordan in Abu Dhabi means it can still reach the round of 16 as one of the four best third-place teams in the new 24-team format.

The Palestinians have two points and will go through if enough low-ranked teams in other groups draw their games on Wednesday and Thursday.

Australia will play the Group F runner-up – 2011 champion Japan or Uzbekistan – next Monday in the first knockout round.

If Australia’s overall play was unconvincing for a team which tested eventual champion France in a 2018 World Cup group game, two of its goals were impressive.

Awer Mabil opened the scoring in the 41st minute with a curling left-foot shot from just outside the penalty area. Rogic decided the game with a powerful left-foot shot from the same distance.

In between, Chris Ikonomidi’s poked shot past Syrian goalkeeper Ibrahim Alma was judged to have crossed the line before Omro Al Midani’s attempted clearance. Without goal-line technology, or video review before the quarterfinal stage, the assistant at the touchline and fifth official beside the goal helped make the decision.

Syria first leveled though Omar Khrbin in the 43rd, and then Omar Al Soma’s 80th-minute penalty kick after he fell to the ground as a cross was swung in from the right flank.

Jordan tops the group with seven points, and next plays a third-place team – Bahrain, Vietnam or Yemen.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Asian Cup wrap: UAE tops India, Jordan stays perfect (video)

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili
Leave a comment

United Arab Emirates got a much-needed win as the Asian Cup began its second round of group stage games on Thursday.

Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout scored for the hosts in a 2-0 defeat of India at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines ]

The win was necessary after a surprising draw with Bhutan to start Group A play. UAE now leads the group by a point heading into the final match day, when it faces Thailand.

The War Elephants beat Bhutan and join India on three points. Chanathip Songkrasin scored Thailand’s goal.

In Group B, Jordan clinched a spot in the knockout rounds with a 2-0 defeat of Syria. Palestine meets Australia on Friday, and the winner will be in pole position to join Jordan in the next round. Syria has one point, while the Socceroos are pointless after falling to Jordan on Jan. 6

Asian Cup wrap: Iran cruises, Kyrgyzstan own goal for the ages

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Leave a comment

There were no big upsets Monday at the Asian Cup, one day after Jordan stunned reigning champions Australia.

Least shocking was Iran clobbering Yemen. The 5-0 win was started by Mehdi Taremi, who scored twice on the day, with Ashkan Dejagah, Sardar Azmoun, and Saman Ghoddos.

South Korea came the closest to getting surprised, beating the Philippines 1-0 without captain Heung-Min Son of Spurs.

Hwang Ui-jo, 26, was South Korea’s goal scorer in the win.

[ MORE: Wolves-LFC recap | FA Cup draw ]

The other Group C match saw China score an expected win over Kyrgyzstan after taking a stunning 1-0 deficit into halftime.

Former Benfica property Yu Dabao scored the winner, but the Kyrgyzstan own goal was… special.

Asian Cup: Jordan stuns defending champ Australia

Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) If Australia is going to retain the Asian Cup, the champions will have to do it the hard way.

In the first big shock of the 2019 tournament, Jordan — the world’s 109th-ranked team — pulled off one of the biggest wins in its history by beating Australia 1-0 on Sunday.

Anas Bani Yaseen was the match-winner, finding space following a short-corner routine by Jordan to guide in a near-post header in the 26th minute.

Jordan had just 24 percent possession in the match and rode its luck under severe pressure in the second half, with Awer Mabil hitting the post for Australia and Jamie Maclaren having a goal disallowed for a narrow offside.

After Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafi produced a double save in the last attack of the match, the referee blew the final whistle and Jordan’s players sank to their knees and clutched their heads.

While the Jordanians are already close to a third quarterfinal appearance in the Asian Cup, Australia likely cannot afford another setback against Syria or Palestine in its other Group B matches in the United Arab Emirates.

“This will hurt everyone, I know that,” Australia captain Mark Milligan said. “It’s hurting me at the minute.”

In the second game on Sunday, Sunil Chhetri overtook Lionel Messi to become the second highest-scoring active international player by netting two goals for India in its 4-1 win over Thailand.

Chhetri moved onto 66 goals, one more than Messi. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (85) is ahead of him.

Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua also scored for India, which climbed atop Group A above host nation United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, who drew 1-1 on Saturday.

Australia, the second-best team in the Asian conference behind Iran, has been in a similar position before at the Asian Cup – in 2007, the Socceroos drew their opener to Oman and then lost 3-1 to Iraq, only to qualify for the knockout stage by thrashing Thailand 4-0 in their last group game.

Twelve years on, they appear to be missing influential midfielder Aaron Mooy, who plays in the English Premier League with Huddersfield and is out of the Asian Cup because of injury. They also lack a cutting edge, with veteran striker Tim Cahill now retired and Mathew Leckie not currently available after a hamstring injury.

The Australians couldn’t break down a packed Jordan defensive line, resorting in the end to long balls into the penalty area.

“I just think we were a little lethargic in our ball movement,” Milligan said.

“We know we have to be better if we want to progress and succeed in this tournament.”

In Sunday’s late game, Palestine played Syria to a 0-0 draw and earned its first-ever Asian Cup point.

The 2019 edition of the Asian Cup is the biggest ever, with 24 teams involved — mirroring the expansion made by the European Championship for its most recent tournament in 2016. It is taking place against the backdrop of a diplomatic crisis in the gulf region.