|By KIERAN FRANCIS
Australia coach Holger Osieck believes the upcoming friendly against Romania will be crucial in preparing for their must-win World Cup qualifier against Oman in March.
The mainly European-based squad will take on the Romanians in Malaga next Wednesday and Osieck is keen to use the clash to fine-tune preparations for the March 26 qualifier against Oman in Sydney.
"I think it's an opportunity against a decent opponent [Romania] to show whether they are ready or not. My point is that I need to clear on the individual performance levels so I find the right mix for Oman because that is the most crucial game in the near future," Osieck said.
"We have to win it [against Oman] and we have to do everything to make it happen. We have to win the three points and whatever happens now in the preparation of it, it leads into it and that's definitely my number one prerogative."
The German tactician explained why the majority of the squad was based in Europe, and why he did not include any players from the A-League.
"If you look at our recent program, in November and December, the focus was more on Australian- and Asian-based players and now for this game I will focus a bit more on the European-based players because I need to have a good look at some of them," Osieck said.
Surprise omission Tim Cahill was left out of the friendly squad after asking Osieck to let him settle in at pre-season training with MLS club New York Red Bulls.
There was again no spot for uncapped striker Richard Porta, who has scored eight goals in 13 appearances for Dubai Sports Club, but Osieck says he is under consideration for future selection.
"Aurelio Vidmar will have a look at [Porta], I will look at him and then we will decide what we will do and if he will make the team or not. We have already had him under observation and now we have two more assessments and the final decision will be made," he said.
Osieck, who has 65 players on his selection list, said he was not concerned that the Oman clash would be the first time a full-strength Australia team has played since the last World Cup qualifier against Iraq in October.
"We have to focus on qualifying but we also have to focus on development and potential candidates as well," he said.