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WC Qualification Asia

  • 29 February 2012
  • • 20:30
  • • AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • Referee: Dong-Jin Kim
  • • Attendance: 24240
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Australia - Saudi Arabia Preview: Pressure heaped on Frank Rijkaard's Green Falcons

Australia - Saudi Arabia Preview: Pressure heaped on Frank Rijkaard's Green Falcons

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It is desperate times for the Dutchman and his side, who need to get a result from a tough trip to Melbourne in order to reach the next round of qualifying


PROBABLE LINEUPS
AUSTRALIA

Australia
Schwarzer
Marrone, Neill, Spiranovic, Carney
Emerton, Bresciano, Milligan, Troisi
Kewell, Brosque
SAUDI ARABIA

Saudi Arabia
Abdullah
Moad, Hawsawi, Eid, Al Mousa
Al Jassim, Kariri, Al S'houb, Ateef, Al Fraidi
Al Qahtani


With Australia already through to the fourth round of AFC World Cup 2014 qualifying, it is Saudi Arabia who go into the match at Melbourne's AAMI Park the far more desperate side. Green Falcons coach Frank Rijkaard dreams of taking his team to Brazil, but they have a tenuous hold on second in Group D ahead of the final matchday. Oman lurk just one point behind Rijkaard's men and will host bottom-nation Thailand, meaning Saudi Arabia must take their fate into their own hands to guarantee progression.

Not helping Saudi Arabia's chances is the absence of key playmaker Mohammed Noor through injury, though they still boast attacking threats through experienced duo Yasser Al-Qahtani (of United Arab Emirates club Al Ain) and Mohammad Al-Shalhoub (of Al Hilal in his homeland). They also have the level-headed Osama Hawsawi - widely rated as the best defender in the region - marshalling his nation from the back.

The pressure may not be as great for the Socceroos, but coach Holger Osieck has nonetheless demanded a polished performance and stated that places in his squad may be at stake. Mark Bresciano's inclusion after a 20-month absence from his national team leads the names summoned by Osieck, and he will start on Wednesday. A-League-based trio Michael Marrone (Melbourne Heart), Mat Ryan (Central Coast Mariners) and Erik Paartalu (Brisbane Roar) are a chance to earn their first Socceroos caps.


DID YOU KNOW?
  • Since losing the Asian Cup final to Japan in extra-time in January 2011, Australia has been defeated just once in 10 matches, winning eight of them.
  • Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, have won just two of their last seven matches, though they did thump New Zealand's Under-23 side 6-0 in a friendly on Friday.
  • The two nations have met just five times in history, with Australia edging the win-loss count 3-2.  The Socceroos triumphed when they last met in September 2011, winning the group qualifier 3-1 in Dammam.
  • Once a powerhouse of the region, Saudi Arabia have slipped to 89th in the Fifa rankings.  They were once as high as 21 - in July 2004 - but did not qualify for the 2010 World Cup and bowed out of the 2011 Asian Cup in the group stage.  Australia, meanwhile, are at 22nd and the top-ranked side in the AFC.

  • In Saudi Arabia's favour is Thailand's solid record over Oman in Group D's other qualifier on Wednesday. In five matches, Oman have won two while Thailand have won five. A draw in Oman would most likely suit Saudi Arabia best.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
Players to Watch
Harry Kewell
Harry Kewell
Position:
Squad Number: 0
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Kewell has struggled to show his best in Australia colours since the 2011 Asian Cup due to injuries and fitness, but has returned to form for club side Melbourne Victory.  He wants a place in the Socceroos' 2014 World Cup squad, and now would be a good time to start staking a claim.
Yasser Al-Qahtani
Yasser Al-Qahtani
Position:
Squad Number: 0
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
In devastating form - alongside Ghanaian superstar Asamoah Gyan - for United Arab Emirates Pro-League club Al-Ain, Al-Qahtani will likely lead Saudi Arabia's attack in their search for goals.  The 29-year-old will need no introduction to Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, who players for Pro-League rivals Al-Jazira, and has an impressive 28 goals in 76 internationals.
Prediction
Despite coach Frank Rijkaard's promise of a "balanced" approach, it is hard not to imagine an attacking frame of mind for a Saudi Arabia outfit desperate for a win.  The Socceroos will be all-too aware of what is at stake for the opponents, and will likely sit back in the opening stages to gauge the tempo of Rijkaard's men.  If Saudi Arabia over-commit in their search for goals, they will leave gaps - and Australia will pounce.
Editor's Prediction

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