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The battle just began
by Yuhui Yang
After the Socceroos grabbed a crucial three points from Tashkent, most of Australian media think the priceless away victory may eventually lead the team to its third World Cup finals. As the FIFA qualification system explained, “In the group of five, the top two finishers qualify automatically for South Africa.” Australia and Japan are the clear favorites for the top two. Uzbekistan has been considered another heavyweight team in this group. The valuable 1-0 win over Uzbekistan means the Socceroos has already knocked out the only potential threat in the final qualifying phase. Some of the Socceroos supporters think Australia will have a comfortable journey to the World Cup finals. However in my opinion there still have some tough games on the way. When the qualifying games get underway again, any small mistakes would put the Socceroos’ ticket to the World Cup finals at risk.
Bahrain would be the banana skin for the Socceroos
Bahrain is the most unpredictable team in this group. They always contribute some shocking results in major competitions. At last year’s Asian Cup, Bahrain beat one of the Asian traditional powerhouses South Korea. They also claimed a 1-0 victory over Japan in the previous qualifying stage. Australian media did not pay too much attention on Bahrain because the Socceroos beat Bahrain twice during the 2007 Asian Cup qualifying phase. However, that was the U-23 Bahrain side. In contrast with the U-23 team the Bahrain international team is a totally different side. The skillful striker A’ala Hubail is the most important player in the team. He was the top scorer at the 2004 Asian Cup. According to the match fixture the Socceroos will play Bahrain and Japan two away games back to back. If the Socceroos can not grab a point from Manama the following blockbuster game against old rival Japan will be under huge pressure. At the moment Bahrain only get one point from two games. Australia is their next opponent, I am sure Bahrain will give the Socceroos such a fight in Manama.
Assemble your best players
During the previous qualifying stage Verbeek selected five or six different starting line ups in eight games. “For the final qualifying phase we have to select our European-based starting eleven. The A-League based side can not complete the task,” Socceroos supporter Loan said. In contrast with other group rivals the Socceroos have the strongest squad on paper. However, some of those big names on the team sheet are not always available on the pitch. “During the last a few months we had no first choice strikers. Kennedy injured, McDonald out, Kewell and Archie both got injured in China. Hopefully this would not happen again,” another supporter, Matteo, said. Kennedy would be played as a target man in front, Kewell up front with him to catch little shooting opportunities. The Socceroos have plenty of firepower in the midfield – Cahill and Bresciano both know how to find the net from distance. As long as key players keep healthy, the Socceroors are capable of beating any team in Asia.