Both sides are searching for form ahead of crucial qualifiers after their meeting in Beirut, adding plenty of intrigue to their first international meeting
|By PADDY HIGGS
Y. Mohamad, Dyoub, Najarin, Ismail
Atwi, Zreik, Dakik
Maatouk, H. Mohamad
Wilkshire, Ognenovski, Neill, Davidson
Kruse, Bresciano, McKay
With one eye on the subsequent 2014 AFC World Cup qualifier against Jordan, Australia's friendly with Lebanon on Thursday [Friday AEST] should be more about the performance than the result.
But having now gone winless in four matches, the Socceroos would no doubt love to leave Beirut with a victory packed safely away in their checked-in luggage.
It was not so long ago Holger Osieck's side would have gone into such a friendly expecting nothing short of a win, but recent results - lead by a desperately disappointing 3-1 defeat to Scotland in August - has changed the landscape somewhat for the Socceroo.
Osieck promised changes after that result in Edinburgh and, while they have perhaps not been as widespread as some expected, there have been youthful recalls in the form of forward Nikita Rukavytsya [FSV Mainz], defender Matthew Spiranovic [Al-Arabi] and midfielders James Holland [Austria Vienna] and Adam Sarota [FC Utrecht].
What part they will play remains to be seen, however, as it does for the likes of left-back David Carney and central defender Sasa Ognenovski, who were among those who struggled against Scotland.
The return of Tim Cahill to the Socceroos squad for the first time since his move to MLS outfit New York Red Bull does add to his nation's attack, with many remembering the positive way he and Alex Brosque linked up in June's draw with Japan.
Osieck could turn to the duo to lead his line again when they take on Lebanon, who the Socceroos have never faced in international football.
Ranked 127th in the world - well below their opponents in 24th - Lebanon are winless in seven matches and appear, on paper, a test the Socceroos should pass.
But the Cedars are, like the visitors, involved in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, having progressed for the first time in their history.
They pulled off a credible draw against Uzbekistan in their second qualifier, but it remains their only point of the stage.
Captain and veteran attacking midfielder Roda Antar - now with Shandong Luneng in the Chinese Super League after an eight-year spell in Germany - is back for coach Theo Bucker, while experienced Al Ahli defender Youssef Mohamad will again lead the defence.
Tricky forward Hassan Maatouk, of Emirates Club in the UAE Pro-League, is another to watch for the hosts, who have their own must-win qualifier five days later, against Iran.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Lebanon were one of the big movers when Fifa announced their August rankings, moving up 17 spots to 127th.
- James Holland is out to make his first Socceroos appearance since coming on as a substitute against Slovenia on August 12 - less than 24 hours after Holger Osieck had been appointed Australia coach.
- The Socceroos' four-match losing run is their longest since 2000.
- If selected, Mark Schwarzer [pictured] will win his 100th international cap, having made his first appearance for Australia in 1993.
- Coach Theo Bucker faced speculation over his job despite leading Lebanon to the fourth round of AFC World Cup qualifying for the first time, having selected Abbas Hassan in goal ahead of regular shot-stopper Ziad Al-Samad. Hassan went on to make a mistake in the final third-round match against the United Arab Emirates.