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Socceroos sound check for Cup quest

by Francis Leach on Sep 02, 2011

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As The Socceroos gathered in camp in Brisbane this week to prepare for their first World Cup qualifier against Thailand at Suncorp Stadium tonight, it must have felt like “getting the band back together” for its senior citizens.

Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire and Brett Emerton have done it all before. Veterans of two World Cup Finals campaigns, they’re like a seasoned stadium rock band these days. Tune up, plug in and let rip.

And like a stadium rock show where you can be certain the set list will be full of the big hits, you pretty much know what you’re going to get from these Socceroos top liners.

As Holger Osieck’s team sets off on its quest for a ticket to Brazil in 2014, the big question will be just how many great performances the boss can extract from the support acts in the Socceroos line up.
Certainly Osieck has been able to find something in the likes of Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse that his predecessor wasn’t. They each had a break out tournaments at the recent Asian Cup. Both have been rewarded with contracts with European clubs, McKay at Glasgow Rangers, Kruse with Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany.

And this is where it gets interesting for this pair. Are they able to follow up their recent success with decent club performances and an improved output for their national team? Or will they suffer the sophomore blues like so many promising acts before them?

With an ageing central defensive pairing in Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski, Osieck needs to reinforce the Socceroos at the back and he knows it. That’s why there’s so much riding on the continued development of Matthew Spiranovic.

The young centre back is, as they say in the trade, big in Japan, where he’s worked hard to establish himself with Urawa Red Diamonds. At just 23 years old his best football may still be ahead of him, but there’s no doubting the fact that he will be central to Australia’s plans as the qualification quest rolls into 2012.

Michael Zullo returns home to Brisbane and must surely see this home town gig as a chance to secure his spot on the left side of defence. His recent Socceroos outings have been encouraging, and he must know the spot is his if he can produce when called upon.

Adam Sarota will also feel right at home at Suncorp Stadium. After just 15 appearances with the Brisbane Roar the kid from Gordonvale in North Queensland found himself at Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie, with fellow Roar boys Zullo and Tommy Oar, making his Socceroos debut in the recent win over Wales in Cardiff.

However, this is where it gets tough. Back to back fixtures against Thailand and Saudi Arabia with World Cup qualification implications are a major step up from the rehearsal room that is an international friendly. If their talent and ambition are to be realised then it’s time for them to show they’ve got the temperament and work ethic to produce the goods, particularly if things get tough as they inevitably do during World Cup qualification.

Similarly for the versatile Rhys Williams, now is the moment to press his claims for top billing in defence. Having impressed with his time at Middlesbrough, so much so that he’s attracting interest from a number of suitors.

His compatriot Chris Herd has impressed at Villa Park, having put in a terrific shift against Wolves last weekend. The young defender isn’t in the current Socceroos squad, but if he continues to impress with The Villains it will provide Osieck with another defensive option to consider.

It is, as a great man said, ‘a long and winding road’ to Brazil and the World Cup Finals. Holger Osieck seems pretty confident that with the line up he’s assembled, the Socceroos will be in perfect pitch.

AUSTRALIA VS THAILAND STATS

Head-to-head
 Played 2: Australia 2, Thailand 0

Previous meeting


Thailand 0, Australia 4, 2007 Asian Cup, Bangkok, July 2011

Past five matches
Australia: 
Wales 2, Australia 1, friendly, Cardiff, August 2011 -
Australia 0, Serbia 0, friendly, Melbourne, June 2011
 - Australia 3, New Zealand 0, friendly, Adelaide, June 2011
 - Germany 1, Australia 2, friendly, Moenchengladbach, March 2011 - 
Japan 1, Australia 0, 2011 Asian Cup final, Doha, January 2011.

Thailand:
 Thailand 0, Singapore 0, friendly, Bangkok, August 2011 - 
Palestine 2, Thailand 2, World Cup qualifier, Al Ram, July 2011
 - Thailand 1, Palestine 0, World Cup qualifier, Buriram, July 2011 - 
Thailand 1, Myanmar 1, friendly, Buriram, July 2011
 -Thailand 1, Myanmar 0, friendly, Buriram, July 2011.

Australian squad

Alex Brosque (Shimizu S-Pulse), Tim Cahill (Everton, England), Nathan Coe (Sonderjysk Elitesport, Denmark), Luke DeVere (Gyeongnam, South Korea), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers, England), Adam Federici (Reading, England), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace, England), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus, Japan), Neil Kilkenny (Bristol City, England), Robbie Kruse (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (JEF United, Japan), Lucas Neill (Al-Jazira, UAE), Sasa Ognenovski (Seongham Ilwha Chunma, South Korea), Adam Sarota (Utrecht, Netherlands), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, England), Matthew Spiranovic (Urawa Red Diamonds, Japan), James Troisi (Kayserispor, Turkey), Carl Valeri (US Sassuolo Calcio, Italy), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow, Russia), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough, England), Michael Zullo (Utrecht, Netherlands)

Thailand squad
GOALKEEPERS: Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (Chonburi), Sivaruk Terdsungnern (Buriram PEA), Chatchai Butprom (Osotspa M-150).
DEFENDERS: Phaitoon Tiebma (Muang Thong), Suttinun Phukhom (Chonburi), Chonlatit Jantakam (Chonburi), Teerathorn Boonmathan (Buriram PEA), Supachai Komsil (Bangkok Glass), Niweat Siriwong (Pattaya), Prathum Chuthong (Osotspa M-150).
MIDFIELDERS: Jakkraprom Kaewprom (Buriram PEA), Datsakorn Thonglao (Muang Thong), Adul Lasoh (Chonburi), Suchao Nutnum (Buriram PEA), Surat Sukha (Buriram PEA), Pokklao Anan (Insee Police), Arthit Sunthornpit (Chonburi), Piyapol Buntao (Muang Thong), Rangsan Vivatchaichok (Buriram PEA).
STRIKERS: Teerasil Dangda (Muang Thong), Chatree Chimtalay (Bangkok Glass), Sompong Sorleb (Buriram FC) and Sarayuth Chaikamdee (Bangkok Glass)