Preview: Qantas Socceroos v Oman
A poor start to Australia's Asian Cup qualification campaign has left no ambiguity in the need for a strong result in this match against Oman.
Date: Wednesday October 14 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1
Head-to-head Played 1: Draws: 1
Previous meeting Oman 1, Australia 1, Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Asian Cup, July 2007
Past five matches: Australia: Australia 2, Bahrain 0, Sydney, WC qualifier, June 10, 2009 Australia 2, Japan 1, Melbourne, WC qualifier, June 17, 2009 Rep of Ireland 0, Australia 3, Limerick, August 13, 2009 Korea Rep 3, Australia 1, Seoul, September 5, 2009 Australia 0, Netherlands 0, Sydney, October 10, 2009
Oman: Oman 2, Senegal 0, Muscat, March 28, 2009 Oman 0, Egypt 1, Muscat, May 30, 2009 Bosnia-Herzegovina 2, Oman 1, Cannes, June 9, 2009 Oman 2, Saudi Arabia 1, Salalah, August 12, 2009 Qatar 1, Oman 1, Doha September 9, 2009
Analysis: A poor start to Australia's Asian Cup qualification campaign has left no ambiguity in the need for a strong result in this match against Oman. A win will move Australia back into contention and level with Oman at the top of the group, but a loss would be nothing short of disastrous for Australia, which is already bottom, and would probably need to win its remaining three qualifiers to progress.
Qantas Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek opted for an all-Australian based squad for the opening two matches against Indonesia (away) and Kuwait (home) and that didn't work as planned with a draw in Jakarta before a 1-0 loss to Kuwait in Canberra. It has meant that Verbeek has called on his strongest hand for this match, with all of the big guns with the exception of injured trio Scott McDonald, Vince Grella and Mark Bresciano, on hand.
Australia, which comfortably qualified for the 2010 World Cup, is coming off a 0-0 draw with the Netherlands on Saturday night in Sydney. Reviews were a little mixed from that performance, with some saying that Australia was lucky to escape with anything from a match the Dutch totally dominated, and others saying it was an admirable defensive effort against the third-best team in the world.
However, all will be in agreement that Australia will be better off for this match having had 90 minutes against world class opposition in the build-up. Verbeek and the players made no bones about the fact that this match was their main target this time around. Key players such as Tim Cahill and Josh Kennedy were given only 45 minutes against the Dutch, and saved for this match.
The only setback in that encounter was the quad injury to Grella, which will see him miss, while back-up Carl Valeri should be alright despite being subbed off late against the Dutch. Craig Moore and Brett Emerton also put in half shifts against the Dutch and should be in the starting XI here, while Lucas Neill's return to the team has been very impressive.
Should Verbeek opt for what most agree is his best line-up, then Moore and Neill will partner in the centre of defence with Emerton and either Scott Chipperfield or David Carney on the flanks. Jason Culina, Luke Wilkshire and Valeri are the most probable midfield trio, but Mile Jedinak could be considered.
Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell are likely to play in attacking midfield roles, while Kennedy, who has been so effective against Asian opposition, should play his lone central striking role again.
The previous, and only time, these two teams have played was back in the Asian Cup in 2007 in Bangkok, where the Qantas Socceroos were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw after Cahill's last-minute equaliser.
Both teams will be much the wiser for that encounter with Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who plays for Bolton in the EPL, saying that his team has improved considerably under the guidance of French journeyman Claude Le Roy.
Le Roy has coached throughout Europe as well as in Africa and Asia and brings a real sense of professionalism to the Omani side, leading them to Gulf Cup glory in January this year. He is a passionate student of the game and will know the Australian players inside and out.
Australia will have some knowledge of those players who participated in that game in Bangkok, including Al Habsi and Badr Al Meymani, who scored the goal. The majority of this squad is based in the gulf region in either Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar as well as Oman, while apart from Al Habsi, their only other European-based player in Emad Al Hossani, who plays for Charleroi in Belgium.
As Australia found out in Bangkok, Oman tends to plays the typical west Asian style of game, with emphasis on speed and counter-attacking, but Le Roy said he will not go into the game with a set mentality on how the match should evolve.
The public expectation of this match is that Australia should comfortably win, but that's not accounting for the reality of playing in a pressure-cooker environment of a qualifier. Le Roy said in the build up to the game, 'you must respect the football, or the football will kill you'. Australia knows it needs to respect the opposition or risk killing its hopes of making Qatar 2011.
Qantas Socceroos squad: Tim Cahill (Everton FC, England) Caps: 34 Goals: 17, Nick Carle (Crystal Palace FC, England) Caps: 10 Goals: 0, David Carney (FC Twente, Netherlands) Caps: 20 Goals: 3, Scott Chipperfield (FC Basel, Switzerland) Caps: 61 Goals: 12, Ante Covic (If Elfsborg, Sweden) Caps: 2 Goals: 0, Jason Culina (Gold Coast United, Australia) Caps: 42 Goals: 1, Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers, England) Caps: 69 Goals: 16, Brett Holman (Az Alkmaar, Netherlands) Caps: 27 Goals: 1, Mile Jedinak (Antalyaspor Kulubu, Turkey) Caps: 6 Goals: 0, Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus, Japan) Caps: 15 Goals: 6, Harry Kewell (Galatasaray Sk, Turkey) Caps: 42 Goals: 13, Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United FC, England) Caps: 16 Goals: 1, Shane Lowry (Aston Villa (On-Loan To Plymouth Argyle FC), England) Caps: 0, Mark Milligan (Shanghai Shenhua, China) Caps: 8 Goals: 0, Craig Moore (Brisbane Roar FC, Australia) Caps: 43 Goals: 3, Lucas Neill (Everton FC, England) Caps: 50 Goals: 0, Mark Schwarzer (Fulham FC, England) Caps: 70 Goals: 0, Carl Valeri (U.S. Grosseto FC, Italy) Caps: 17 Goals: 0, Dario Vidosic (FC Nurnberg, Germany) Caps: 1 Goals: 0, Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough FC, England) Caps: 2 Goals: 0, Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow, Russia) Caps: 35 Goals: 0
Oman squad: Mohammad Rabee-a (Al Sadd - Qatar), Ali Al Habsi (Bolton - England), Fauzi Basheer (Banni Yas - UAE), Khalifa Ayel (Al Ettifaq - Saudi Arabia), Mohammad Al Sheeba (Al Wasl - UAE), Hasan Mudaffar (Al Wahda - UAE), Ahmad Kanu (Al Ahli - Saudi Arabia), Ahmad Hadid (Al Ittihad - Saudi Arabia), Ismail Al Ajmi (Al Kuwait SC - Kuwait), Emad Al Hossani (Charleroi - Belgium), Badr Al Meymani (Muscat), Hassan Rabee-a (Mjeis), Hashem Saleh (Dhofar), Qasem Saeed (Al Nasr), Muheeb Ezzat (Al Nasr), Aman Younes (Al Hilal), Jaber Al Ouesi (Al Seeb), Mohammad Al Theib (Oman), Saad Suheil (Al Orouba).