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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 3 June 2017
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 3 JUNE 2017 SPORT GEORGE STOGIANNOU The last time Saudi Arabia visited Australia for a World Cup qualifier was five years ago in early 2012 under Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard. The Socceroos fought back after going behind twice in that match, to overpower the Green Falcons 4-2 with Alex Brosque scoring a brace and Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton each scoring a goal, and Australia going on to qualify for the 2014 World Cup Finals, and the Saudis missing out. Current Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou would love nothing better than a repeat of that result when the two countries meet this Thursday evening in Adelaide. The stakes are high with the winner of this match likely to grab a top two finish in the Asian qualifying group and automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia. As in 2012, the Saudis again have a Dutch coach at the helm. This time it's Bert Van Marwijk, appointed in 2015, in a bid to lead them to their first World Cup finals since 2006. Those who watched Holland lose the 2010 World Cup final 1-0 to Spain will know something of the style of Van Marwijk's teams. He was in charge of the losing Dutch team that day, who were roundly criticised for abandoning the Dutch ideals of total football in favour of a more pragmatic destructive style of football aimed at disrupting the opposition's flowing game. In fairness, when you're facing a Spanish side at the height of their game, there's probably not much he could've done. On Thursday, the Socceroos can expect to face a compact, well organised, meticulously prepared Saudi team who are designed to restrict the space when Australia has the ball and counterattack with speed and efficiency when possession is turned over. Meanwhile, the Saudi players, who almost all play in the domestic Saudi league, will prefer a slower tempo, and will do everything within the laws of the game to try and slow the tempo of the game, thus preventing Postecoglou's team from playing their preferred high tempo, high intensity game. The Saudi players have a reputation for high technical ability, and are adapted to playing in restricted space. Coach Van Marwijk has employed a 1-4-2-3-1 formation in most of the qualifiers. The Green Falcons can counterattack with deadly speed through the dangerous Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Yayha Al sheri, whilst defender Osama Hawsawi is also a threat from set pieces. The first time these two met in the current qualifying campaign, last October in Jeddah, the match finished 2-2 after the Saudis took an early lead. Australia fought back with goals from Sainsbury and Juric before the Saudis equalised through talismanic sub Al Shamrani, recalled to the national side Socceroos aim to tame Green Falcons DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 The last meeting between Saudi Arabia and Australia ended 2-2 in Jeddah. PHOTO: SOCCEROOS.COM.AU after a long absence. One imagines the Saudis will be more than happy to leave Adelaide on Thursday with a point, much more so than the Socceroos who need the win ahead of a visit to Japan in their next qualifying match. Coach Postecoglou has chosen a battle-hardened, experienced squad boosted by the availability of skilful midfield trio Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, and Massimo Luongo. All three were missing from the Socceroos' laboured win over UAE in their last outing. Supporters will be hoping Mooy and Rogic bring their confidence and form to Thursday's match continuing on from their successful domestic campaigns with Huddersfield and Celtic respectively. It remains to be seen if Postecoglou persists with his latest formation of three at the back or whether he reverts to the back four to give more protection to a more offensive midfield. Earlier this week, coach Postecoglou announced his final 23-man squad for the five matches in June beginning with Thursday's World Cup qualifier in Adelaide, followed by the friendly in Melbourne against Brazil, and the three Confederations Cup matches in Russia later in June. The squad includes three uncapped players in youngster Ajden Hrustic, veteran keeper Danny Vukovic, and defender Dylan McGowan. Postecoglou also retained striker Jamie Maclaren in his squad. The coach's decision to include McLaren may reflect his need for speed in the final third given Robbie Kruse's lack of game time and the necessity of managing veteran Cahill's appearances off the bench. Vukovic receives the coach's nod for the third keeper's spot ahead of Mark Birighitt following an excellent domestic season with Sydney FC. He may win his first ever cap in the Brazil friendly. Ajden Hrustic is the rookie who gets the nod ahead of another youngster Riley McRee, largely because the Socceroos are keen to secure the promising Hrustic as a Socceroo against the contender for his international services, Bosnia. Expect Hrustic to make his senior debut for Australia in a competitive match at some stage during the Confederations Cup in Russia. FULL SQUAD: GK: Mat Ryan (Genk, Belgium), Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart, Germany), Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC) DF: Milos Degenek (Yokohama Marines, Japan), Trent Sainsbury (Inter Milan, Italy), Bailey Wright (Bristol City, England), Brad Smith (Bournemouth, England), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor, Turkey), Dylan McGowan (Pacos de Ferreira, Portugal), Ryan McGowan (Guizhou Zhicheng, China) MF: Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa, England), Mark Milligan (Bani Yas, UAE), Jackson Irvine (Burton, England), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, England), Massimo Luongo (QPR, England), Tom Rogic (Celtic, Scotland) FW: Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern, Switzerland), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Robbie Kruse (Uncontracted), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Jamie McLaren (Darmstadt, Germany), Ajdin Hrustic (Groningen, Netherlands).
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