World Cup Qualifying Preview: Australia - Bahrain

It's a dead rubber for the Aussies but Bahrain need just a point to secure a play-off chance...
Australia (1st, 14 pts) - Bahrain (3rd, 7 pts)
ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia
Kick Off: June 10, 11:00 CET

A Time For Attack?

Australia might have already secured their place at the World Cup finals in South Africa next year, but they haven’t been immune to criticism throughout an 18-month-long qualifying campaign.

Manager Pim Verbeek has been widely congratulated for negotiating a tricky Asian landscape, though there have been groans of discontent from certain sections of the media about an unattractive style of football.

The Dutchman was also rebuked for open criticism of the nation’s premier domestic competition and has barely called upon A-League players since taking over as national team manager, having relied on familiar European stars throughout the campaign.

Whether it be player selection or tactics, though, Verbeek has been calculated and precise at every turn, making the difficult decisions that have so often decided tight away clashes in China, Uzbekistan, Bahrain and Japan.

The likes of Mark Schwarzer and Lucas Neill have been imperious during a qualifying campaign that has been built on defence and which hasn’t been without its near misses, though for the most part Verbeek has fashioned a professional, composed and clinical outfit.

With the main objective now achieved, the Socceroos can afford to open up during their last two group matches as they seek to deliver the sort of entertainment and fluidity that has been missing of late.

In Their Hands

Needing only a point from their remaining two matches to finish third in their group and have a chance at making next year's World Cup through the play-offs, Bahrain’s destiny is firmly in their hands after an impressive campaign.

Having missed out on qualification for the last World Cup in rather controversial circumstances during their play-off against Trinidad and Tobago, Bahrain now have a wonderful chance to qualify for football’s showpiece event for the first time in their history.

Czech manager Milan Macala believes his side have an excellent chance against a Socceroos outfit who only arrived back in the country yesterday after a taxing qualifier against Qatar.

Based on their last performance against Australia in Manama in November last year, his side are undoubtedly capable of unsettling their star-studded opponents with a mixture of technique and physicality.

In a sense, this too is a match where they can afford to take risks, knowing that they have the luxury of a final match at home against Uzbekistan.



Nov 19  Bahrain 0 – 1 Australia  (World Cup Qualifier)
Jan 28  Indonesia 0 - 0 Australia  (Asian Cup Qualifier)
Feb 11  Japan 0 - 0 Australia  (World Cup Qualifier)
Mar 5  Australia 0 - 1 Kuwait  (Asian Cup Qualifier)
Jun 6  Qatar 0 - 0  Australia  (World Cup Qualifier)


Nov 19  Bahrain 0 – 1 Australia  (World Cup Qualifier)
Feb 11  Uzbekistan 0 – 1 Bahrain  (World Cup Qualifier)
Mar 28  Japan 1 – 0 Bahrain  (World Cup Qualifier)
Apr 1  Bahrain 1 – 0 Qatar  (World Cup Qualifier)
Jun  Bahrain 4 – 0 Jordan  (Friendly)



Luke Wilkshire returns from suspension, though captain Neill conveniently ruled himself out of the clash with a late yellow card against Bahrain in order to avoid the risk of being suspended ahead the World Cup next year (suspensions from the qualifying stages carry on into the main tournament).

Marco Bresciano won’t be featuring due to logistical difficulties, while Scott Chipperfield has been ruled out with a foot injury and Carl Valeri returns to Italy to help promotion-chasing Grosseto in the Serie B play-offs.


Bahrain will take on Australia on Wednesday a little under strength, as star striker A’ala Hubail and midfielder Abdulla Fatadi are out of contention.  

Hubail, joint top scorer in the 2004 Asian Cup, is injured and Fatadi will miss the game through suspension. A win in Australia, who qualified for South Africa with a goalless draw in Qatar on Saturday, will guarantee third place and a play-off spot.



Harry Kewell
was at his best against Qatar, looking as fit and sharp as he was under Guus Hiddink at the 2006 World Cup. He has carried his fine form with club side Galatasaray onto the international stage, and Australia will be looking to force their visitors onto the back foot with his willingness to take on players and hit the by-line.


Belgian-based Jaycee John isn’t necessarily a certain starter for his national team but the Nigerian-born striker is a raw talent who troubled an immobile Australian back line in Bahrain late last year. He might just be the ace up Macala’s sleeve if the match in Sydney is a tight one.


The Australians might just open up at home with nothing on the line, and a slightly weakened Bahrain outfit will struggle against the in-form Kewell.

Australia 2-0 Bahrain

Chris Paraskevas,

Get ready for the World Cup on and off the pitch at Road To Africa.