Tue, Oct 16, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Brazil 2012 FIFA World Cup: Misfiring Socceroos set for Iraq showdown in Doha


Australia face a tough away assignment against Zico’s Iraq today knowing defeat would rock their chances of reaching a third successive World Cup in 2014.

Last month’s shock loss to Jordan left the Socceroos with just two points from three games in the final round of Asian qualifying and badly in need of a win to get their campaign on track.

Third-placed Australia are already eight points off the pace set by Group B leaders Japan and they face a scrap with Jordan, Iraq and possibly even Oman for the second automatic qualifying spot.

“We just have to make sure we right the wrong from the last game and get a much-needed victory. We can’t afford to slip up again,” striker Alex Brosque said.

When the teams last met, Harry Kewell’s header with two minutes left of extra-time knocked the reigning champions out of last year’s Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar — also the venue for today’s game, as security concerns continue in Iraq.

Coach Holger Osieck successfully utilized a number of veterans during that tournament, including Kewell, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, defender Lucas Neill, and midfielders Brett Emerton and Tim Cahill.

However, the German’s loyalty toward those stalwarts appears to be running its course after his team’s poor start to the final round of Asian qualifying.

Having drawn their first two games against Oman and Japan in June, the Socceroos put on a limp display last month in Amman and lost 2-1 to Jordan, a performance that Osieck labeled a “disaster.”

Now, a win at the Grand Hamad Stadium is seen as essential for Australia — although midfielder Carl Valeri is not expecting any favors from the former Asian champions.

“Iraq are definitely one of the toughest opponents we have come across,” said Valeri, who missed the Jordan game through injury. “We are definitely going to have to be at our best and play as a team.”

Like the Socceroos, Iraq have also stumbled out of the blocks, drawing their first two games against Jordan and Oman, before suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat in Japan last month.

They will also be desperate to make amends after they were trounced 6-0 by Brazil in a friendly in Sweden last week.

With Japan not in action this week, Jordan have a chance to make up some ground on the leaders when they visit Muscat to face Oman, who are equal on points with Iraq and Australia, but last in the group on goal-difference.

In Group A, leaders South Korea face their stiffest test so far when they take on Iran at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium looking to stay unbeaten and to preserve their three-point cushion, after two wins and a draw so far.

While Choi Kang-hee’s side have been in fine form as they seek an eighth consecutive World Cup berth, the same cannot be said of Carlos Queiroz’s Iran, who are second, but struggling for goals.

They earned a fortunate 1-0 win in their opener in Uzbekistan, but then they drew blanks in a 0-0 draw at home against Qatar and a 1-0 defeat in Lebanon.

The latter result sparked such outrage amongst Team Melli fans that the players had to issue a statement to assuage them.

The other Group A match takes place in Doha, where Qatar entertain winless Uzbekistan in a rematch of the opening match of last year’s Asian Cup, which the central Asian side won 2-0.

It was their first win in Doha in four attempts and they will be eager to repeat that result, which could see them move up to second.

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