Australia avoid injury scare, Jones fit for QF

Australia has dodged an injury crisis at right-back heading into their Asian Cup quarterfinal, with Gethin Jones declaring himself fit to play despite being taken to hospital for scans on his groin and Lewis Miller and Thomas Deng expected to recover from illness.

Jones, 28, limped off in the 69th minute of Australia’s 4-0 round of 16 win over Indonesia on Sunday evening, with coach Graham Arnold revealing post-game that he had immediately been taken to hospital for tests.

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The Perth-born, former Wales junior international was starting his third game of the Asian Cup since pledging his international allegiance on the eve of the tournament’s commencement and had provided the assist for Martin Boyle’s goal to make it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time.

With Miller and Deng, who is a centreback by trade but adds cover on the right, not travelling to the stadium because of illness, it left Australia starting down the possibility of having Hearts defender Nathaniel Atkinson as the only healthy option on the right flank.

Speaking at training on Monday, however, the Bolton Wanderers man said that he’d been cleared of any major damage to his groin, which he had first had issues with after Australia’s group stage win over Syria, and that he would be available for Friday.

“All clear,” he said. “Just a bit of fatigue. This is new to me, a different kind of competition from what I’m used to at the club level.

“Definitely [be ready for the quarterfinal]. The group’s been doing really well, working hard in training every single day and now we just need to look forward to who we get after they play tomorrow night.”

Team staff, meanwhile, said it was anticipated that Miller and Deng would be available for the quarterfinals.

Australia will face either Saudi Arabia or South Korea in that game, with the two sides set to face off at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday evening to determine who advances.

That means that Arnold’s side will benefit from 48 hours of additional rest for the fixture compared to their foes, something that striker Mitch Duke, who has been battling a hamstring injury, said was a big boost for a side for whom physicality is a key asset.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Duke. “That’s always what we’ve been so good at, our physicality, energy and high intensity in games. We can run teams down.

“That showed even in the last game. Indonesia came out of the gate, probably surprised a lot of us, but you could see in the last 20 minutes they died out quite a lot… but we still had the energy to take over and run out the game.”

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