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 @ 6:31am
      Lolo Lala said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      Iraq shouldnt be taken lightly it seems both teams will give it there all. It will be a great match no doubt

      • March 21st 2017 @ 1:47pm
        Franko said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

        Don’t think anyone is taking Iraq lightly, this will be a tough match.

        Agree with the below, where are the goals coming from?

        Juric did slot a nice one here a fortnight ago…

    • Roar Pro

      March 21st 2017 @ 9:11am
      Josh Barton said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      I’m worried about this game. You look at our side and question where are our goals going to come from? Cahill is the only regular scorer in the squad. When Mile Jedinak is the only other player with more than 10 goals (mostly from penalties), it says something about our quality in the final third. These are games we need to win, and whilst I don’t think we will lose, we need to score goals to win.

      Here’s our goal scorers from the current squad:

      Cahill 48
      Jedinak 15
      Mooy, Milligan, Luongo 5
      Juric, Troisi, Kruse 4
      Leckie, Burns 3

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2017 @ 9:54am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      I am wondering somewhat if Ange is thinking of having either of Jedinak or Milligan at CB. Whilst our goal scoring options are the topic of the moment my larger concern is about Iraq catching us on the break. We need a strong leader in the final line of defence to ensure we do not get caught napping during long periods of possession.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 10:04am
        Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Good point Ben and with a certain rookie right back, which seems a possibility, he will need strong man nearby. Wilkinson has made Grant such a better player and covered his butt a few times this year. I am starting to get pretty nervous about this one, and we still have to go through this four more times!

        • March 22nd 2017 @ 1:27pm
          Squizz said | March 22nd 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          Which makes you wonder why Wilkinson was not in the squad. Especially with Trent hardly playing.

          • March 22nd 2017 @ 9:55pm
            Arto said | March 22nd 2017 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

            Agree – that was definitely a mistake by Ange.

            Tbh, I’m very surprised with this squad as for me it’s not balanced – maybe I don’t know enough about the players he has selected, but to me we are an RB, CB/DM down and the wingers are very light on game-time & form. We have a HEAP of AMs so maybe the plan is to try to play through the middle more… The other thing that reinforces my opinion is the guys Ange cut from the original 30-man squad although losing Jeggo (a DM in my book) after the cut, mitigates the circumstances a little…

          • Columnist

            March 23rd 2017 @ 8:08pm
            Stuart Thomas said | March 23rd 2017 @ 8:08pm | ! Report

            I agree Squizz, Wilkinson’s form deserved a spot as unfashionable as he might seem.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 10:57am
        Griffo said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        To me Ben it will be Milligan as CB, with Jedinak screening in front. It has occured before and Milligan was a good CB when playing and captaining the Olyroos, even though he prefers midfield. If Jedinak is injured Milligan will replace him most like in that screening position, although it might be prudent to keep Milligan at CB and have Luongo or Amini screening perhaps?

        You cannot underestimate the Iraqis, who have natural technical ability that they could easily break down and punish a clumsy Aussie defence.

        That familiar embrace Ben is getting her tentacles in me again 😉

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 12:05pm
          Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          She’s been slipping love notes to me under the desk.

          • Columnist

            March 23rd 2017 @ 8:09pm
            Stuart Thomas said | March 23rd 2017 @ 8:09pm | ! Report

            She’s been giving me nightmares the last three nights. Bitch.

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 12:08pm
          Griffo said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          …and I thought the whispered, sweet nothings rolling around in my head were bad! 😆

        • March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm
          Melange said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          Despite playing their for Villa on the weekend, I can’t see it Ange puting Jedinak at CB. I’ve actually wondered for years why he hasn’t, I think he’d be great there and there are more rounded options for holding mid.

          I’m hoping Grant gets a start, I’ve seen much more of him this year and I think he’s an incredible player. If he gets a run in the internationals up to the and including the Confed Cup it could launch a move to Europe.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 11:29am
      Chris said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      It’ll be interesting to see the size of the crowd and who the “neutrals” will support.
      This could be a telling factor

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2017 @ 11:56am
        Ben of Phnom Penh said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

        It was a very small crowd last time Iraq played there as I believe Iran was playing elsewhere on the same day and most Iranian’s were glued to their TV sets. The same is happening this time with the Iraq v Australia game kicking off 30 minutes before the Qatar v Iran game. Hence I’m expecting most Iranians to be watching Team Melli in action.

        • Columnist

          March 21st 2017 @ 12:27pm
          Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

          A poor attendance might help us? I’m not sure. If the neutrals are with us, perhaps we want a decent crowd? I’m baffled. Trying to find logical factors to convince myself that victory is assured. Then a slow realisation looms and my hands start to quiver and I end up in the lunch room, screaming out “Cahill, Jedinak, Moooooooooy.”

          Think my days are numbered in this place.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 1:09pm
            Chris said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            Well if there are any Iranians or Iraq’is reading the Roar can you tell us if you support each other as neutrals?
            I would think they are indifferent to each other. Who knows.

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 2:00pm
              Aussie Iraqi said | March 22nd 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

              I’d say it depends. I wouldn’t support Iran just because I don’t care and I think most of them are indifferent to the Iraqi team however the ones that would show up to the stadium would most likely support Iraq.

              A smaller stadium would benefit Australia in terms of crowd however they’re at a disadvantage given they aren’t familiar with the conditions, weather, crowd and stadium quality.

              Iraq is a good defensive team, struggling to get goals though. They drew 0-0 with Brazil in the Olympics last year.

              Given what I’m reading about the current state of the Aussie team, could well be a 0-0 draw.

          • March 22nd 2017 @ 12:06am
            Midfielder said | March 22nd 2017 @ 12:06am | ! Report

            agree stew

    • March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm
      Caltex & SBS support Australian Football said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

      Thank the Lord, Ange, has read our concerns Stuart, for Nathan Burns has been a late inclusion into the squad. I am not sure though if he’ll be traveling to Iran with the final selection. However, I hope this will be the case—for we need a player like him sitting on the bench, just in case.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:41pm
        Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

        You are correct, he has that spark and dare I say, X-Factor, that we might need after sixty minutes without a goal and having enjoyed plenty of ball.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 1:40pm
      BES said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

      “Most would acknowledge the fact that the Socceroos are the superior team on the ball..”” eeerrr what?!

      I dont think I have seen Australia be superior to any other team in the world on the ball, why would we think they will be suddenly now?

      Jedinak start? We lose. Milligan by a country mile please.

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 2:40pm
        Stuart Thomas said | March 21st 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        Superior to Iraq. Not every other footballing nation. We should be able to dominate possession.

        • March 23rd 2017 @ 12:04am
          j binnie said | March 23rd 2017 @ 12:04am | ! Report

          Stuart – How long is it going to take for the old adage,”the opposition can’t score if we have the ball” ie “possession based football” to sink in that “possession” without “penetration” is about as useful as t…ts on a bull.
          For a long time now we have watched teams pile up possession tactics and continually lose games, so somewhere there has to be an explanation. Cheers jb.,.

          • Columnist

            March 23rd 2017 @ 8:14pm
            Stuart Thomas said | March 23rd 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

            Sorry it took so long to respond JB. I totally agree. Sydney FC are the case in point. We might just out possess them yet without penetration, the canny Iraqis could find a way to keep the clean sheet. I am very nervous about this game, but I do believe the manager is astute and will find a way. I hope!

      • March 23rd 2017 @ 2:56am
        Rixco said | March 23rd 2017 @ 2:56am | ! Report

        True, well said

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