Verbeek: We're primed to finish the job
After a near-flawless World Cup qualification campaign spanning almost 18 months, Qantas Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek says his side is primed to "finish the job" against Qatar on Sunday morning (AEST).
DUBAI, June 5 AAP - After a near-flawless World Cup qualification campaign spanning almost 18 months, Qantas Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek says his side is primed to "finish the job" against Qatar on Sunday morning (AEST).
Australia need only a point from the match at the Al Sadd Club in Doha to become the first team, aside from hosts South Africa, to book their spot at next year's finals.
With home matches still to play against Bahrain and Japan this month, the Qantas Socceroos are under no immediate pressure to seal second consecutive finals appearances for the first time.
But Verbeek said the intensity and commitment of his players at their training camp in Dubai this week showed just how badly they wanted to book their tickets to South Africa.
"You can see in training, they are very committed to finishing it off," Verbeek said.
"That's why they're here and they're not having holidays.
"Their having their holidays (break from league football) in a very hot Dubai and a cold Australia -- that says enough about the mentality of the players.
"They want to go the World Cup and want to do everything to qualify for the World Cup as soon as possible.
"That's what we have to do, get it done."
Qualification could not have gone much better for the Qantas Socceroos in their first campaign since switching to the Asian Football Confederation.
In the final stage of qualifying, they have dropped only two points - a 0-0 draw against powerhouse Japan in Yokohama -- and are yet to concede a goal in five matches.
However, they have still earned the ire of some critics, who claim they have played unattractive football.
That has clearly frustrated the players and Verbeek agreed perhaps the side had not got the credit it deserved.
"I think we don't do that bad," Verbeek said.
"I think (we deserve) a little more respect. But I'm so happy that we live in a country where everyone can have a different opinion.
"It would be quite boring if they didn't."
One of the main criticisms aimed at Verbeek has been his reluctance to use more than one recognised striker away from home but that has not deterred the Dutchman in his planning for Qatar.
Striker Josh Kennedy will lead the line alone with Scott McDonald set to start on the bench, but the side will be far from short on firepower.
Tim Cahill is expected to play, despite speculation he would be rested, alongside Harry Kewell and Mark Bresciano in a three-man attacking midfield.
Vince Grella will make his international return to partner Carl Valeri in a holding role with Jason Culina expected to fill in for the suspended Luke Wilkshire at right back.
Chris Coyne will partner Lucas Neill in central defensive with Scott Chipperfield likely to shake off an ankle problem to slot in at left back.
Cahill is battling a hip injury suffered in Saturday's FA Cup final but and will be assessed closer to match time.
"He's very eager to play and to be with us but we have to wait and find out how he is," Verbeek said.
Qatar will field an inexperienced line-up, missing up to five regulars, but Verbeek was wary of his desperate opponents, who need to beat Australia, then Japan, to have any chance of qualification.
QATAR v AUSTRALIA Asian Group A, World Cup qualifier Al Sadd Club, Doha Kick-off: Sunday, 0200 AEST
Last meeting: 15/10/2008, Brisbane, World Cup qualifier: Australia 4 bt Qatar 0
Players to watch:
HARRY KEWELL: Looking in the best shape he's been in for a long time, Kewell comes into this match on the back of a fine debut season with Galatasaray. He scored 12 goals in 34 appearances and played in several positions for the Turkish giants. The fact he has been playing well and regularly should be a great concern to the Qataris.
VINCE GRELLA: After a injury-riddled first season with Blackburn Rovers in England, Grella will be looking to let out some frustration against Qatar. Both he and likely holding midfield partner Carl Valeri have looked in fine touch this week at training and will look to wrestle control of the game from Qatar.
JOSH KENNEDY: While his performances for national team have continued to impress, expect even more of a spring in Kennedy's step in this match. He wants out of his relegated German club Karlsruhe and strong performances in these qualifiers could help him land a deal elsewhere. Loves playing against Qatar, having scored twice against them in three matches last year.
SEBASTIAN SORIA QUINTANA: Qatar's star player, biggest attacking weapon and likely captain for this match. Will certainly prove the biggest threat to Lucas Neill and Chris Coyne in the Australian defence. The Uruguayan-born striker carries nearly all of his sides faint hopes of an upset to keep its World Cup hopes alive.
FABIO CESAR: Another of Qatar's imported South Americans, who has missed plenty of game time recently, but impressed when the sides met in Doha a year ago. Quick, skilful and dangerous from set pieces, will look to create space and opportunities for Quintana.
BILAL MOHAMMED: A tall and strong 23-year-old defender who is considered Qatar's best at the back. Should have a busy night containing the aerial danger of Kennedy and the triple threat of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano.