Australia's fourth-round qualifying campaign has been underwhelming, but their ever-dependable goalkeeper believes a form reversal is nigh
|By PATRICK SEXTON
Australian veteran Mark Schwarzer is expecting a much-improved performance from his team against Iraq in Doha on Tuesday [Wednesday AEST].
The Socceroos were dismal in their last AFC 2014 World Cup qualifier away to Jordan, losing 2-1 in the match on September 11.
That result left Australia third in Group B and needing a result against Iraq to stay within reach of an automatic qualification spot.
And Schwarzer, who was vocal in his disappointment at the result against Jordan, is expecting a "very big reaction" from his team-mates, particularly the experienced players of the side.
"We talked about it at the beginning of the week and also at various points throughout the week [about] how important it is for the older players to step up and not only lift their own performances but also to demand it from the rest of the players in the side as well," he said.
"I think it has been pretty evident on the training field already."
Much has been made of Schwarzer's immediate reaction to the loss in Jordan, with the 40-year-old goalkeeper saying that he left his team-mates in no doubt about his feelings following the result.
"I won't go into any specifics about what was said because I think what was said in the change rooms has to stay in the change rooms but obviously I wasn't happy and I made sure that everyone was aware of that, that I wasn't happy but also that they shouldn't be happy," he said.
Iraq has proved to be a difficult opponent in the past, with the Socceroos enjoying a slim 2-1 head-to-head advantage over their opponents who are currently ranked 80th in the world.
A Harry Kewell strike deep into injury time was the only thing separating the two sides in their last meeting in the Asian Cup last year.
However, Schwarzer believes that the full week of preparation the Socceroos have enjoyed will hold them in good stead ahead of the crucial match.
"It's always been a concern when you don't have a lot of time to prepare for the games," he said.
"This is completely the opposite. We are having a good week to really do a lot of football work on the football pitch.
"It's been a luxury that we've not had previously and I think, hopefully, it is going to work to our benefit."
Team-mate Matt McKay is also positive about the team's preparations, with the 29-year-old stating that the team is "raring to go".
"Everyone's been extremely positive the whole week and training's been great," McKay said.
McKay is also not shying away from the importance of the game, with the versatile left-footer admitting that due to previous results the match is "massive" for the Socceroos.
"Obviously with the opening games we've had so far in this group there's a build up of pressure for this game," he said.
"It's a massive fixture for us and we all know that. We need to get three points out of it to really push our campaign back on track."