Lee Chungyong of Korea Republic takes on the Socceroos' Mathew Leckie during an international friendly in Brisbane on November 17 last year. Picture: Darren England/AAP
Lee Chungyong of Korea Republic takes on the Socceroos' Mathew Leckie during an international friendly in Brisbane on November 17 last year. Picture: Darren England/AAP

Leckie given all-clear to remain with Asian Cup squad

EXPERIENCED winger Mat Leckie has been given the all-clear to remain with Australia's Asian Cup squad.

The 27-year-old has been battling a hamstring injury suffered on club duty for Hertha Berlin in Germany last month, before joining the Socceroos camp in the United Arab Emirates.

Coach Graham Arnold said on Friday evening that Leckie's recovery was progressing well enough for him to remain with the team despite being unlikely to feature until the knockout stages.

Leckie said: "We are working really hard with the training sessions, taking it step by step, not rushing things, and so far the progress has been great.

"I haven't really torn a muscle like this in my hamstring, at least this bad, before. So the process is all new to me."

Arnold waiting until the last minute to make a call on Leckie after Aaron Mooy, Daniel Arzani and Martin Boyle had all previously been ruled out through injury.

Boyle's omission following a knee injury picked up in last weekend's pre-Asian Cup friendly against Oman in Dubai has potentially aided Leckie, given both are similar players.

Arnold has until six hours before the kick-off of Sunday's tournament opener against Jordan in Al Ain to bring in replacement players to his squad.

Leckie said his focus was on building up his training ahead of a likely return to action in the latter stages of the tournament.

"We are up to a pretty good (running) speed now, 25 kilometres an hour, a few run-throughs and change of direction," he said.

"It is just taking it day by day and stepping it up with sharper exercises, more speed."

With Leckie sidelined for now, Arnold admits he faces a selection dilemma as Awer Mabil and Chris Ikonomidis both push for a start against Jordan.

Ikonomidis has been in stellar form for Perth Glory this season and scored in last weekend's pre-Asian Cup friendly against Oman in Dubai.

"He's giving me a headache," Arnold said.

"I've got about six of them. I need either six beers or six Panadol."

Australia will get their first look at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium at a training session on Saturday afternoon ahead of Sunday's opener.

- AAP

News Corp Australia


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