Tue, 26 March 2013
SYDNEY — The Oman national team aim to subjugate the sturdy Aussies in their own lair when they cross swords with them in a crunchy Asian zone Group 'B' qualifier for the 2014 World Cup at Sydney Olympic Stadium today. The Sultanate boys buoyed by the effortless win over higher-ranked Haiti at home in friendly, buried jet-lag and have been training hard from the time they set foot on kangaroo land for the vital encounter.
Oman coach Paul le Guen is aware of the Australian might but puts faith in his boys saying they can counter any menace. Especially the aerial threat posed by the New York Red Bulls' striker Tim Cahill, who is almost certain to lead the Australian attack in his 61st international. "It could be a problem for us, sometimes we don't have enough tall players and there's nothing I can do about that," said the Frenchman.
"He's good in the air, he likes fighting, I've showed (them) the video but I'm not sure it will be enough." Oman held Australia to a 0-0 draw in their last meeting in a Muscat furnace last year but the former Lyon and Cameroon coach is under no illusions how hard it will be to get a result in Australia. "Once again they will be favourites and we will be outsiders but we will do our best," he said. "They are supposed to qualify but we want to pull a surprise, why not?"
Oman will have to do so without influential playmaker Fauzi Bashir, who has retired from the international game after being relegated to the bench by Le Guen. "He was a massive player for the national team, he was the captain, he was an excellent player but it was his decision and I have to respect it," said Le Guen. The emergence of a band of talented young Socceroos has given Australia coach Holger Osieck "positive headaches" as he ponders his team selection for their crucial tie today.
Australia had one of the oldest squads at the last World Cup but with the careers of that "golden generation" coming to an end, Osieck has been looking to the likes of Robbie Kruse, Tommy Oar, Tom Rogic and James Holland to replace them. The progress the youngsters have made over the last year has impressed the German but also presented him with some problems when it came to choosing his side.
"I am now in a position, I have to admit, that I have not been before on many occasions where I really have some headaches, but positive headaches," he told reporters yesterday. "The quantity is there but within that quantity, I have a lot more quality." Mark Schwarzer, who has 104 caps and two World Cup campaigns under his belt, will captain the side in the absence of the suspended Lucas Neill and has also been impressed by the progress made by the younger players.
"It's been great to see in the last 12 months, there's indications that there's been a lot of younger players coming through," said the Fulham goalkeeper. "Not only coming into the squad and making up the numbers but starting to really put their head down and knocking on the door. "Overall a real good core of players, good people, good professionals and hungry for success and hungry to play for the Socceroos."
After a stuttering start to their qualifying campaign, Australia are second in their group behind runaway leaders Japan, equal on points with Oman and Iraq with four games to play. Only the top two qualify directly for Brazil in 2014. The third-placed team from groups 'A' and 'B' face each other over two legs in September for the right to contest an intercontinental play-off.