Ahead of the international friendly in Beirut, Australia captain Lucas Neill has credited the quality of the Qantas Socceroos’ opponents, Lebanon.
Ahead of the international friendly in Beirut, Australia captain Lucas Neill has credited the quality of the Qantas Socceroos- opponents, Lebanon.
The two nations are set for their first meeting in a senior international and while Lebanon aren-t as rich in football history as many of their Asian counterparts, their involvement in the final stage of the Asian section of FIFA World Cup qualification underlines their ambition.
Neill played opposite Lebanon lynchpins Youssef Mohamad and Hassan Maatouk in the UAE Pro-League last season and has gained a unique insight into Lebanese football.
“(Lebanon are) a good team, a team that-s emerging, any team that makes the last ten to get to the World Cup, from the Asian confederation is going to be a strong team - they-re no different,” Neill said.
“A fantastic challenge for us, a game that-s going to really test us and one that we really need to prepare well for a very important Jordan game.
“It-s huge (the Jordan match), we-ve not had an easy start, we-ve gained two valuable points but we really need now to play to our best or near best to try and give ourselves the best chance of three points.
“It-ll send a bit of a statement to the rest of the group, it gives us a chance to pull away a little bit and keep on the heels of Japan, who have obviously got off to a fantastic start.”
Neill will lead a fully fit squad of 22 against Lebanon, with competition for places at a high level.
Ahead of the main game of Australia-s sojourn to the Middle East against Jordan next week, there is scope for coach Holger Osieck to experiment with his line up and Neill concedes that there are many options available to the Qantas Socceroos boss.
“It-s (competition for starting eleven places) a nice headache for the manager, but it-s also good for the players to be able to keep pushing each other every day at training and get that competition for places,” Neill said.
“Hopefully it always puts the best team on form at the time in the game, which is what we need to pick up results.
“(In Lebanon it has been) very pleasant, climate wise it-s nice, the boys are getting a good sweat on, the hotel is fantastic, the training ground has been good.
“We don-t see any trouble or animosity so we feel very safe here, everyone-s been very receptive of us and made us feel very welcome.”
The Qantas Socceroos face Lebanon in an international friendly at Saida Municipal Stadium, Saida, at 8.45pm local time (3.45am AEST, Friday, 7 September) *Note changed time.
Following that, the Qantas Socceroos resume their FIFA World Cup qualification campaign against Jordan in Amman, at 7pm on Tuesday, 11 September (2am AEST, Wednesday, 12 September).
The Qantas Socceroos return to Australia in 2013, for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Oman at Sydney-s Stadium Australia at 7.30pm, Tuesday, 26 March, followed by Iraq, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 18 June.
Tickets for both matches at Stadium Australia are on sale now through Ticketek or via phone, 132 849.