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Every game of a group qualification campaign is critical. This one even more so.  

Australia must win at home on Thursday night against Saudi Arabia or any realistic hopes of a top-two automatic qualification finish will have all but evaporated.

The evidence shows that over the previous three World Cup qualification campaigns for 2006-2014 tournaments, the Socceroos have thrived under pressure and delivered when it really matters. 

Without being arrogant and staying respectful for our Saudi visitors, I am expecting our national team to prevail in a tight contest.

Weather conditions are expected to be almost ideal for football, with a clearing shower for a mostly fine evening, light winds and temperature of around 11 degrees by kick-off time at 8pm.

The choice of Adelaide Oval as the venue seems to have largely been driven by commercial considerations. This once again demonstrates that our national football administrators are selling us short on providing optimal playing surfaces and football friendly viewing experiences for fans. The optimum is rectangular stadiums, and pitches designed for the world game, and not other sports.

I am guessing that FFA, including the non-football background senior managers and officials within the organisation, will no doubt be reminded tonight that “it’s not ****ing cricket” – a popular insult chant from active supporters.

(Stay tuned for my opinion piece to be published in the next week or two, which will cover a wide range of FFA leadership woes and strategic policy challenges for the overall advancement of our game.)

Regardless of these ongoing deficiencies, and along with tens of thousands of other passionate supporters, I will be giving my unconditional support for the Socceroos in this Group B qualifier.

The impressive club form of key attacking players like Tom Rogic, Tomi Juric and Aaron Mooy bodes well for the reigning Asian champions.  What a luxury to have a world class striker in Tim Cahill ready if, and when, needed to come off the bench.

Central defender Trent Sainsbury has recently broken into the starting line-up for Inter Milan, which is a huge plus – especially when faced with the main task of containing striker Mohammad Al Sahlawi for the ‘The Green Falcons’.

A ‘battle of minds’ between Ange Postecoglou and his counterpart Bert van Marwijk, through their contrasting strategies and tactical approaches, adds yet another intriguing element to the encounter.

We are familiar with the philosophy of our home grown coach which has brought amazing title winning successes. By contrast, will the Dutchman direct negative or spoiling antics similar to the 2010 World Cup final when Holland’s aggression failed to thwart ‘La Furia Roja’?

Meanwhile on the terraces, the Socceroos Active Support (SAS) has organised its match day pregame pub style meet up from 4pm at the Strathmore Hotel on North Terrace in the Adelaide CBD.

This will be followed by the traditional march to the stadium from 6.30pm. If it is anything like the previous game in March 2016, when Australia knocked in seven unanswered goals, this ritual will be another highlight to set the mood for a good result.

It is now up to South Australians and the many fans travelling from interstate to show up in huge numbers to fill the Adelaide Oval and help lift Australia to victory.

I am flying on the ‘flying kangaroo’ from Sydney to Adelaide on match day (Thursday) for a late morning arrival. A lunch at an Algerian cafe in the wonderful Central Markets beckons, ahead of reconnecting with football mates and comrades from around Australia.

Stay tuned for my post-match review from Adelaide – hopefully after our Socceroos have taken another big step towards qualification for Russia 2018.

The match is at Adelaide Oval, kick-off 7.30pm local time. Tickets still available here. The game is broadcast on FOX Sports (pre-match from 7.30pm AEST) and Nine Network’s GO! from 8pm AEST. 


Categories: Opinion | Socceroos

socceroos, world cup qualifier

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