Fresh injury rocks Socceroos’ Cup campaign
The Socceroos' Asian Cup injury crisis has plunged to new depths, with Andrew Nabbout likely to be ruled out of the tournament.
The Daily Telegraph understands Nabbout re-injured his groin at training on Monday afternoon, the eve of Australia's final group clash against Syria.
It comes as a massive blow for the Urawa Red Diamonds forward, who first sustained a strain the day before the team's opening loss to Jordan but was set to return and play some part in the decisive Syria match.
Nabbout has been back in full training in recent days, and coach Graham Arnold declared him fit as recently as his pre-match press conference 15 minutes before the session when it occurred.
It also compounds Arnold's injury problem, which has already claimed key personnel in Daniel Arzani, Aaron Mooy and Martin Boyle, with Mat Leckie back training but still yet to play any part in Australia's Cup defence.
Josh Risdon also remains sidelined with a groin issue and will play no part in the Syria game, while Tom Rogic has been playing through a broken hand on top of an ongoing knee issue.
Nabbout, who led the Socceroos' line at the World Cup and was first choice to do so again in the United Arab Emirates, is a perfect fit for Arnold's interchangeable front three as a winger-cum-striker with pace to burn.
The setback is especially disheartening for the 26-year-old, who dislocated his shoulder in Russia and pushed himself to complete double the prescribed rehab in order to recover in time for the Asian Cup.
"Initially I was told six months but because I had this Cup to look forward to, it kind of drives you to do it double time," Nabbout said in camp earlier this month.
"I did rehab three times a day to get ready for this. I was on the pitch twice a day to do fitness work to try and get back, and I came back in three months which was a big bonus for me.
"It was really good to get game time before the Asian Cup because I knew I wouldn't be here hadn't I had game time."
If there's any silver lining, it's that the alternatives have already stepped up.
Both Jamie Maclaren and Boyle's 11th-hour replacement Apostolos Giannou scored in Friday's comfortable 3-0 win over Palestine.
Maclaren, whose superb header marked his maiden international goal at the 10th time of asking, appears the most probable candidate to start against a Syria side full of fire and likely to offer up more space than defensively minded Jordan and Palestine.
Cyprus-based Giannou, who wasn't even selected in Arnold's original 23-man squad, scored off the bench and offered glimpses of his pedigree and aerial threat in his 10-minute cameo.
In terms of squad rotation, though, it leaves Arnold little room to move if Australia advance to the round of 16 and beyond, with the turnaround between fixtures becoming shorter.