Graham Arnold has taken Australia into the last 16 in Qatar

Doha (AFP) - A prickly Graham Arnold hit back on Monday at suggestions that his Australia team are too defensive as the title contenders look to end the Asian Cup group stage with a bang.

The Socceroos have reached the last 16 in Qatar even before Tuesday’s final group match against Uzbekistan thanks to a 2-0 win over India and 1-0 defeat of Syria.

The stodgy Syria win came from a neat Jackson Irvine swivel and shot just before the hour – Australia’s only shot on target all game. Syria also had one shot on target.

Arnold said afterwards that “clean sheets win tournaments”, but on the eve of the Uzbekistan game said that comment had been unfairly misconstrued.

“My methods are playing attacking football, putting high pressure on,” he said on Monday.

“I got asked a question about winning this tournament and I said clean sheets win you this tournament.

“I think probably the Australian media read that the wrong way, as normal.

“What’s important is that the players know their roles and their jobs. We’ve played two teams where we spent a lot of time in their half.

“We’ve created quite a number of chances and individually we’ve not finished that off.”

Arnold, who took Australia to the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup before giving eventual champions Argentina a scare in a 2-1 defeat, will be missing first-choice forward Mitchell Duke against Uzbekistan because of a hamstring niggle.

That means tweaking his attacking line-up, but returning to the earlier theme, he again took issue at a question suggesting his side are too negative.

“As I said, I don’t know where you get from that we are a defensive team,” he told one reporter.

“We have a job to do defensively,” said the 60-year-old, whose side will want to top the group to get a theoretically easier run through the knockouts.

“We are an attacking team that knows how to defend.”