Australia ready for date with destiny

Australia ready for date with destiny

By Adam Peacock

The occasion is set; the biggest match on Australian soil since the Socceroos beat Uruguay on penalties in 2005 to qualify for the following years World Cup.

Australia completed a light training run last night

The date is perfect; 6 years to the day since the Socceroos staged a remarkable comeback to stun Japan in the Kaiserslautern sun at the said World Cup.

Yet trepidation, rather than expectation, seems to be the mood in Australia regarding Tuesday night’s qualifier against Japan in Brisbane.

Much of it, of course, lends itself to Japan’s form, with the 6-0 dismantling of Jordan shown nationally on Friday night, before the Socceroos hard fought draw in sweltering Oman.

Many football fans in Australia knew of the Blue Samurai’s growing reputation - the performance in Saitama only confirmed it. A test befitting the occasion and anniversary awaits.

And it’s a test only made harder by what the Socceroos went through hours later in Muscat. 2 points dropped? Maybe, but when you consider 5 kilos were dropped by some players, a point gained may be the more reasonable view.

So Japan arrive fresher, with more confidence and with the knowledge 3 points pretty much guarantees a spot in Brazil.

As for the Socceroos, the ride won’t be as smooth, with this the sole home game in the opening 4 of this final stage of qualifies. How that is fair is beyond many, but it is what it is and the nature of the tight-knit well travelled squad of players will only see it as a challenge.

As for public opinion, you wouldn’t call it a pall of negativity, but the murmurs seem to be getting louder by the day about the lack of youngsters in the Socceroos set up.

Carl Valeri, at 27, was the youngest player to start against Oman. He is older than half of Japan’s team to start against Jordan.

But what seems to be lost in the argument is the fact that the final stage of World Cup qualifying is not the time for experimentation. The gas is on. No point fiddling with the type of Bunsen burner now.

Youth has been given a chance by open-minded coach Holger Osieck - it’s just he takes the firm view what he sees in camp, or games, far outweighs the digits following D.O.B on their passports.

Take the example of last year’s Asian Cup. Players like Tommy Oar and Nathan Burns were in the squad, and had a month in the Middle East auditioning for future roles, but have barely been sighted since.

In fact, go back to the last meeting between these sides - the final of that Asian Cup 17 months ago - and not much has changed for both sides; aside from the fact Shinji Kagawa (who missed the final through injury) is fit and firing, and Mark Bresciano is back from an 18-month national team hiatus.

Bresciano is suddenly as important for the Socceroos as any other. Until he returned to the set up for the win over Saudi Arabia game in February, Osieck relied on the midfield pairing of Carl Valeri and Mile Jedinak. More than accomplished players in their own right, but too similar, we all asked?

The 32 year-old, now with Al Nasr in the UAE after a long and successful career in Serie A, has added a new (and much required) dimension, with his creativity and willingness to advance the ball in the right direction. His central role is different to when previously player as a wide attacking midfielder, and he’s relishing it.

The big question for Tuesday is who will be running onto Bresciano’s perfectly weighted questions of the defence.

Osieck preferred Harry Kewell and Alex Brosque up front in Oman, and when Kewell was summonsed to the bench, Archie Thompson - who like Kewell, finished his A League commitments with Melbourne Victory on March 24 - was the man to come on.

Left to cool their heels (if that was possible in the Muscat furnace) were Tim Cahill, scorer of more goals than any other current Socceroo (24) and Josh Kennedy, who’s beaten the keeper 8 times in his last 7 internationals.

Stats aside, it seems incomprehensible Cahill would sit this out.

He troubles Japan. In Kaiserslautern in 2006. At the MCG in 2009. Nothing but bad memories, regardless of the dawn of a golden generation in the land of the rising sun.

As for Kennedy, he surely fits all the requirements. Not only a terrific strike rate for the Socceroos (30 caps, 15 goals) but for Nagoya Grampus, despite a quieter than usual start to the present campaign, thanks to a nagging back injury.

But Osieck not only ignores borth certificates, but reputations as well it seems. He lives in the now, and now he loves what he sees in Brosque, and holds Kewell in high esteem.

As he was typically blunt in explaining pre-Oman - training form in camp is his overriding factor when selecting his team.

The media know it, the fans know it, and most importantly, the players know it.

It’s Holger’s way, and that’s fair enough. His job, his mandate. It’s gone to plan so far with a run of success which, pardon the bias, hopefully extends to Tuesday night and beyond.

Adam Peacock is a member of the FOX SPORTS Football team and will host tonight’s coverage from Suncorp Stadium.




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