Australia vs Iraq: A preview

Stuart Thomas Columnist

By Stuart Thomas, Stuart Thomas is a Roar Expert

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    If your juices aren’t flowing for the next two World Cup qualifiers, I’m not sure what will get them going. In around ten days’ time the Socceroos’ campaign could be as good as over.

    Alternatively, they could have taken second position in the group and look good for a place in Russia with a couple more positive results at home.

    The slip up against Thailand might haunt them all the way through to the end of the campaign on September fifth, I for one, will be hoping it ultimately means nothing after our boys meet and conquer all of the challenges placed before them.

    Thursday presents Iraq and what we do know is that it will be cool. Tehran has reasonable chances of rain predicted in the coming days and even with the prospect on sunshine through the middle of the week, the temperature will remain in the teens.

    This is probably a positive for the contest itself, players coming from cold climates and having to cope with extreme heat always puts a blight on performance and with only days to prepare for matches and acclimatise, these cooler conditions should provide a fair contest.

    What is also certain, is an in-form Iraq team after a friendly win against Iran just days ago.

    Locating details about the match is proving difficult, yet looking at the result from a distance, it appears a solid win.

    My one reservation is the Iranians initial reluctance to even play the fixture, which they expressed in December. Obviously a change of heart took place, yet the strength of the Iranian squad is proving hard to ascertain.

    Iraq haven’t lost to Iran in their previous two clashes and their fourth place at the 2015 Asian Cup appears to have been parlayed into continued success under the guidance of Radhi Shenaishil.

    The Iraqis sitting in fifth in the qualifying group is somewhat insignificant for the Socceroos, as they head to Tehran in search of a vital three points, irrespective of the opponent.

    How the Iraqis go about the task will be interesting. Most would acknowledge the fact that the Socceroos are the superior team on the ball and should be able to break down the stoic Iraqi defence. However, the questions around establishing successful avenues to goal, still haunt the Australian squad.

    Much will depend upon Tomi Juric, who appears the mostly likely up front centrally and Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse will need to use run and width in order to provide for him.

    Tomi Juric

    If the Iraqis do sit deep, the patience of Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy and co in midfield will need to be Job-like and the flankers will be required to work tirelessly.

    It appears unlikely Tim Cahill will start after doing so against the Jets on Saturday and Ange Postecoglou will probably stick with his recent method of using him off the bench. Although he did only have fifty six minutes in the four nil drubbing of Newcastle.

    Last time around against the Iraqis, both Australian goals came in the second half and the clean sheet would have pleased the manager no end. Being away from home and caught in a stalemate at half time is something for which the Australians will need to be psychologically prepared.

    The Iraqis will undoubtedly set this as a goal in the hope of pouncing on a chance in the second half in order to produce, what would be, a stunning upset.

    At the risk of raising a rather contentious issue on local soil, the state of the pitch might just play a role in proceedings. The Socceroos will be hoping for something less sticky and challenging than the Ranjamangala National Stadium pitch they faced in Thailand and hopefully the Shahid Dastgerdi Stadium surface provides something more conducive to quality football.

    The surface in Thailand made the Socceroos appear clumsy and awkward.

    The Thais played the conditions far better than the Socceroos and if not for two penalties from Mile Jedinak, the entire campaign might look like a disaster, rather than the intimidating and stern test that lies ahead.

    As the Socceroos last performance, it was somewhat disappointing, despite the immense improvement in the Thai team. Statistically, the Australians were able to access the opponent’s box more frequently than their opposition.

    They took more shots, had more shots on target and threw more balls into the area than the Thais, yet without the late penalty, would have lost all three points.

    This isn’t the first time these types of numbers have reflected the restricted scoring avenues from which the team suffers and unless Postecoglou can start to generate goals from a wider array of sources, the short term success of this squad looks limited.

    Matthew Leckie

    This is going to be an enormously important week in Australian football, potentially, a return to non- World Cup participation looms. Something we haven’t felt since ‘that penalty’ from John Aloisi.

    What ramifications that would have on football in Australia is unclear, yet a reasonably successfully Confederations Cup later in the year, would still not mask the disappointment and inadequacies that would surely coincide with a failed qualifying campaign.

    We’ll all be up cheering the boys on and truth be told, we should walk away with three points. The UAE match, back on home soil, could be a a different story altogether.

    To be a consistent World Cup competing nation, teams like Iraq need to be broken down by our squad. The talent we have ‘should’ be too much for the Iraqis.

    Mind you, the word should often accompanies a salesperson’s pitch, when they tell you that your new refrigerator ‘should’ arrive on Thursday; you are never quite 100 per cent confident.

    Stuart Thomas
    Stuart Thomas

    Stuart Thomas is a sports writer and educator who made the jump from Roar Guru to Expert in 2017. An ex-trainee professional golfer, his sporting passions are broad with particular interests in football, AFL and rugby league. His love of sport is only matched by his passion for gardening and self-sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @stuartthomas72.

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    The Crowd Says (68)

    • March 21st 2017 @ 2:15pm
      Dan said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

      Hopefully see a big game from Mooy he is having a great season with Huddersfield.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:43pm
        Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

        Joy to watch Mooy. A true A-League success story. There are little nuggets of gold like him around. Just need to find them and work hard.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 2:50pm
          Nemesis said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

          And, he went to a club where he’s getting lots of match time. That’s the key.

          Tommy Rogic has also taken his game to the next level under Brendan Rodgers.
          Musti Amini is getting regular game time in Denmark.
          Mass Luongo at QPR.

          Too many ALeague players have left too early & gone to clubs where they’ll never get a chance to show what they can do.

          I’ve seen enough Euro football to know the best ALeague player are as good as the best in the English 2nd tier, or even the players at lower clubs in the English Premier League.

          But they’ve got to get a chance.

          • Columnist

            March 21st 2017 @ 3:17pm
            Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

            Spot on Nemeis, some of these Aussie boys can play hey? Shock horror, who’d a thunk? Whats you tip/analysis/prediction?

            • March 21st 2017 @ 3:28pm
              Nemesis said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

              To be honest, I know nothing about the Iraqi team. All I want is for our lads to play the football Ange has instructed – high pressing, high tempo, lots of movement & vertical passing. If we do this I’m confident we can beat just about any team in the world.

              Thankfully the weather in Tehran is ideal for us – far better than if the match were in Qatar, or Oman.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 3:30pm
                Nemesis said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

                PS: I’ll say IRQ 0-4 AUS

              • Columnist

                March 21st 2017 @ 3:43pm
                Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

                I hope you are right. 4 zip would be a great start. The one thing that worries me is panic. Have to be patient. They might sit a little and that exposes our weakness in failing to create clear cut chances. If I were coaching against the Socceroos I would sit deep and break fast. No way I would let them get a cheap one, without goal scoring potency, make them earn every goal. I hope they don’t take my advice. If they press hard it could open the floodgates for us.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 3:51pm
                Nemesis said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

                True. But the only time I’ve seen AUS struggle with their system is when they’re playing in oppressive weather conditions.

                With the dry desert heat of the MidEast or the high humidity of Thailand, our boys struggle playing high tempo – Mooy, Rogic, Kruse look visibly distressed.

                Our only away matches for remaining WC2018 qualifiers are in Iran & an away trip to Japan. I’m glad the Mid East is behind us… for another 3 years!

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 3:39am
                Rixco said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:39am | ! Report

                Lol not so sure about that

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 1:20am
              Arto said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:20am | ! Report

              “True. But the only time I’ve seen AUS struggle with their system is when they’re playing in oppressive weather conditions.” I agree 110%, Nemesis! 🙂

              As an example, I was at the game in Sunderland last year where for the most part we played Eng off the park – at least in the 1st half – and it was played in rather pleasant conditions for Northern England. The key in that game was Eng took their chances & we didn’t – although we did struggle to create big chances through the middle.

              Ange’s style and attitude is a good fit for the current squad and whilst we may be worried about scoring and defending in general, the main issue our NT has is in execution – we still too inconsistent with some glorious stuff often being combined with ‘sunday park’ stuff (Asian Cup triumph aside).

              Hopefully the Socceroos can take a leaf (& inspiration) out of the cricket teams efforts in India at present and execute the basics well with a good deal of patience. We don’t have to win 4-0, even tough that would be great – I’d be happy enough with a 1-0 victory with the goal coming in the 90th minute (provided we actually deserve the victory based upon how we play)!

              • Columnist

                March 22nd 2017 @ 11:29am
                Stuart Thomas said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

                The a-league boys actually appear to handle it better. Stands to reason I suppose.

          • March 22nd 2017 @ 12:08am
            Midfielder said | March 22nd 2017 @ 12:08am | ! Report

            agree n … game time is critical and he looks like moving to the PL

    • March 21st 2017 @ 4:22pm
      Swanny said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

      Where can Jackson Irvine fit in the Socceroos . He is scoring goals as a midfielder in the championship. He might provide the X factor that luongo has in the past .

    • Roar Pro

      March 21st 2017 @ 4:24pm
      Josh Barton said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

      My prediction: 1-1 draw, Mile Jedinak (Pen)

      • March 22nd 2017 @ 3:37am
        Rixco said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:37am | ! Report

        I predict 1-0 for Socceroos. Iraq have good players but depend on individual abilities tactical wise they are lost. They also have a new center back named Rebin Sulaka who is 6’4 and plays in Norway I predict they will use him to mark Tomi Juric. Socceroos also need to watch out for Saad Abdul-Amir their Defensive Mid that plays in the Saudi League for Al Ahli, he has incredible passing, stamina, and is aggressive without the ball. When it comes to their wingers they brought in a player named Amjad Kalaf who is insanely fast and I am positive if they start him they Australian defense will find problems and then there is Ahmed Yasin known for his speed and dribbiling.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 6:59pm
      Cool and Cold said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

      Critical.

    • March 22nd 2017 @ 12:15am
      Midfielder said | March 22nd 2017 @ 12:15am | ! Report

      My run on side

      ———————————–Ryan ————————————
      milligan————sainsbury —————wright————–Smith
      ——————————luongo———————
      —————mooy——————–irvine
      leckie——————–juric————————troisi

      • March 22nd 2017 @ 1:38am
        Arto said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:38am | ! Report

        Not meaning to sound antagonistic, but I’m curious as to your selections (since you haven’t given any reasoning for them)
        Leckie? Luongo as DM? Milligan at RB? Sainsbury?
        I want Leckie to suceed, but I feel he’s had soooo many chances as a starter and not managed to deliver that he might be better off coming off the bench to build up his confidence against tired legs. Whilst I think Ange will probably start Leckie as he won’t spring any surprises given the importance of the game, I can’t see Leckie scoring or creating enough for us to win the game as a starter.
        I’m not sure of Luongo’s ability at DM, tbh… In my mind, he’s more attack-minded and as such is competing against Rogic & Troisi (& less so Mooy) for the AM spot. I don’t know enough about Irvine to judge him, and I don’t think either Amini or McGree will start so that leaves Jedinak as DM for me – plus he’s the current Captain.
        Also, Milligan at RB, whilst a safe choice, is not exactly conducive to Ange’s style of play with fullbacks overlapping so I’d go with Degenek as he has previously (eg: vs Eng last May). I’d put Milligan alongside Wright at CB as they have more game time than Sainsbury at present.

        Thus my starting XI is: (4-2-1-2-1)
        Ryan, Degenek, Milligan, Wright, Smith, Jedinak, Mooy (as DM #2), Troisi, Burns, Kruse, Juric
        Subs: Vukovic, Grant, Sainsbury, Behich, Luongo, Leckie, Cahill (not sure how many can be on the bench, but this 7 cover most possible injuries/tactical changes).

        • Columnist

          March 22nd 2017 @ 11:36am
          Stuart Thomas said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:36am | ! Report

          Good discussion on selection this one. Lots of options. Look how different those two teams are and the Rhyan Grant decision yet to be made. Having not seen much of Jedinak lately its hard to know form, from all reports reasonable, I think he has to be in there as a strong minded influence. Sainsbury to start as well. Jeez I’m getting nervous.

          • March 22nd 2017 @ 9:30pm
            Arto said | March 22nd 2017 @ 9:30pm | ! Report

            Me too! The closer the game gets, the more nervous I become actually – previously, I have thought of this as the easier of the 2 games now, but maybe it’s the opposite??!! 😀

            Whilst I’m an SFC supporter, I can’t see Grant starting given the importance of the game and his lack of experience. Plus, whilst he’s had a great season so far, he has been lucky to escape a couple of cards for bad challenges and in this game we can’t afford to lose a man for either a ‘rush-of-blood-to-the-head’ red or 2 yellows…

            • March 23rd 2017 @ 1:38am
              Rixco said | March 23rd 2017 @ 1:38am | ! Report

              It was really east the first time 2-0..Iraq looked lost and didn’t know what to do on the pitch. But this time it will be different they have many new players and the starting 11 changed.

          • March 23rd 2017 @ 1:53am
            Rixco said | March 23rd 2017 @ 1:53am | ! Report

            True a captain is needed no matter what form he is in. Jedinak will obviously give a boost to the team and the players just like how when Iraq had Younis Mahmoud they were always playing decently. I predict and also sure that Iraqs starting 11 will be 100% different but remember they are also missing key players like Justin Meram, Brwa Nouri, and Yaser Kasim

      • Roar Guru

        March 22nd 2017 @ 11:46am
        Griffo said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        Agree Arto I see Milligan more a CB, but who knows with Ange.

        Luongo was recently talking up his defensive capabilities since he has been a defensive mid recently for his club, but really if Jedinak is fit, he’ll start and play there – being the captain does afford certain…leniences.

        Yeah not so big a fan of Leckie. Although playing regularly in the Bundesleiga he reminds me a bit of a cross between Holman (poor control and touch) and Scot McDonald (can’t score). Like Holman he is fast and can harry in the front line of the press – given the cool conditions this should work as a tactic longer – and therefore potentially result in more turnover deep in their defence.

        So I like your Troisi, Burns, Kruse, Juric combo, with Cahill to replace one of Kruse or Burns imo.

        Your defensive line looks good, although am wondering at Behich in for Smith, given he’s played regularly over Smith (iirc), although wonder a bit at how Craig Goodwin might have fared here.

        Formation wise I wonder if Ange will go the midfield diamond that has narrowed us too much, given the likely technical ability of our opponent? Looking at the comment below from Rixco I wonder if our wide defensive play picks will be key to shut down attacks from width, and how our formation may hinder or aid the opposition here.

        • March 22nd 2017 @ 9:49pm
          Arto said | March 22nd 2017 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

          Yeah, maybe Luongo is a better DM than I give him credit for – don’t watch the Championship so I’ve only been hearing good stuff about Mooy given the relative positions Huddersfield & QPR are on the ladder.

          I reckon gievn the form Troisi is in, he HAS to start and whilst I’m fully expecting Ange to keep faith in Leckie (seeing as Burns was a replacement call-up) & start him with Kruse, I prefer Burns (despite his lack of game time) and would have kept Goodwin in the squad – THAT was a mistake by Ange, IMO. As well as not including Wilkinson in the squad to give him the option of 2 fit CBs in form. He’s obviously gone with his big guns though in the hope they fire in an important game like this.

          IMO, the diamond is a more attacking formation in comparison with the 4-2-3-1 and ordinarily I’d be infavour of it, but it requires the DM to be in good enough form and fitness that they can dominate the game – given the doubts of Jedinak at present, I’d go for the extra DM (even if it is Luongo/Mooy) so that we don’t get caught on the counter. I think we can expect to be able to control posession & tempo of the game despite it being away as long as we are patient and execute the basics well. We NEED to win the CM battle in order to keep control of the game – the longer the game goes without an Iraqi goal, the better it’ll be for us as a draw whilst defintely a setback is not as disastrous for us as it is Iraq and they’ll press forward more in search a goal the longer the game goes.

          Plus, Cahill always finds a way of heading the ball into the back of the net towards the end of game! 😉

    • March 22nd 2017 @ 3:46am
      Rixco said | March 22nd 2017 @ 3:46am | ! Report

      I don;t why but whenever the Iraqi national team plays they are not given a fair match. 1st game against Australia they had a clear penalty when one of the center backs grabbed their wingers hand inside the box without the ball. Against Japan it was 2-1 Iraq was inside japans box their player Ali Adnan was about to volley a ball coming down and the ref blew the whistle. Against Saudi they were winning and 2 penalties got given two them at the 70&90 minute which was very controversial.

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