Socceroos veterans need to step up
Senior Socceroos have been spared the axe but coach Holger Osieck made it clear he wants them to show greater leadership for this month’s vital World Cup qualifier against Iraq in Doha.
Despite hinting he could shake up his squad after last month’s shock 2-1 loss away to Jordan that left Australia’s qualification hopes under threat, Osieck on Wednesday made only three changes to the squad for the October 16 match.
Young gun Tommy Oar returns from a lengthy absence after impressing recently with Dutch side Utrecht while Carl Valeri and Mark Milligan return from injury and suspension respectively.
Making way are three defenders – clubless left back David Carney and injured duo Sasa Ognenovski and Jason Davidson – while goalkeeper Adam Federici misses out again as he struggles for form with Premier League side Reading.
While the Socceroos’ recent form has resulted in many questioning Osieck’s reliance on the squad’s more experienced players, the German stressed he was not losing patience with them.
However he revealed he thought they could be doing more to help usher in the squad’s younger generation of players.
“I have to be very critical. I expect, in particular from what you call senior players, the guidance for the entire group and I will get that pretty clearly across when we have the opening of the camp in Doha,” he said.
“It’s not enough to enter the pitch and do some stuff and after the final whistle you are relieved of your duties. It’s ongoing, starting from the moment we arrive in our hotel to when we depart.
“I think I’ve made some observations that lead me to that very clear statement.”
Knowing a loss to Iraq could plunge Australia’s campaign to reach a third successive World Cup finals in Brazil into crisis, Osieck said there would be no looking back to the disastrous performance in Amman.
“Everybody was unhappy but that doesn’t help us,” he said.
“To be unhappy or to really step up and resist and fight against it is a different story and I can tell you I have the right determination for that and I will get it across to the players.
“There is no room for any looking back. We just draw a line and from now on there’s no ifs and buts.
“We have to be there and I don’t want to have any excuses from anybody.”
After enduring a logistical nightmare with late kick-offs, delayed flights and searing temperatures during the friendly against Lebanon and qualifier in Jordan last month, Osieck scrapped a planned warm-up match against the United Arab Emirates to allow more training time and a “simple focus” on the Iraq game.
While his squad does not include a recognised left back, durable Matt McKay will fill the role in the absence of Carney and long-term prospect Michael Zullo.
The coach said Oar was not considered a defensive option due to his ability in attack.
With five matches to play in the final phase of qualification, Australia sit third on two points in Group B behind Japan (10 points) and Jordan (four) but are only ahead of Iraq and Oman on goal difference.
Only the top two finishers book direct qualification, with Japan already looking assured of clinching the top spot.
The third place finisher can still qualify but has to win playoffs against another Asian team and the fifth-placed South American team.© AAP 2013
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