Australia have their World Cup qualification destiny in their own hands, knowing a win will seal their spot in Brazil next year, while Iraq arrives in Sydney with nothing to play for except pride and the ability to spoil their rival's party.
Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Local Kick-off Time: 19:30 AEST time
Telecast starts: Fox Sports 6:30pm (live), SBS 8:00pm (delayed).
Head-to-head: Played 7, Australia 4 wins, Iraq 2 wins, 1 draw
Betting: Australia - $1.22 Draw - $6.00 Iraq - $15
Iraq 1-2 Australia, AFC FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Doha, 16 October 2012
Previous 3 matches:
Australia 4-0 Jordan, World Cup Qualifier, June 11, 2013
Japan 1-1 Australia, World Cup Qualifier, June 4, 2013
Australia 2-2 Oman, World Cup Qualifier, March 26, 2013
Iraq 0-1 Japan, World Cup Qualifier, June 11, 2013
Oman 1-0 Iraq, World Cup Qualifier, June 4, 2013
Iraq 0-1 Liberia, International Friendly, May 24, 2013
Wilkshire, Ognevoski, Neill, McKay
Kruse, Bresciano, Milligan, Oar
Adnan, Ibrahim, Bhajat, Salem, Salman
Tariq, Ahmed, Mulla Mohammed, Ismael
*Top two teams qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil, while third spot plays off versus third placed team in Group A. Winner of that tie plays off versus fifth-placed South American team from CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup Qualfication group.
**Japan have already qualified for the tournament.
ANALYSIS AND TEAM NEWS
The equation for Australia is quite simple: win and they qualify for next year's FIFA World Cup; lose or draw and hearts and minds will turn to Amman, where the result between Jordan and Oman on Wednesday morning will decide the Socceroo's fate.
Precious little has separated Australia and Iraq in recent fixtures, having faced off against each other in both the 2007 and 2011 Asian Cups, as well as the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Iraq memorably upset Australia 3-1 in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, while they undid their opponents 1-0 in a World Cup Qualifier in 2008.
Australia's victories since then have been by the smallest of margins, with the most recent one on October last year, when Tim Cahill and Archie Thompson rescued the Socceroos in their come-from-behind 2-1 win in Doha.
After having dismantled Jordan 4-0 in Melbourne last week, Holger Osieck's men have reinstilled the belief in their fans that they have what it takes to overcome Asian opposition, which had proven a hurdle in preceding fixtures.
The 26-man squad is fit and raring to go, while the starting XI that has appeared in the last two fixtures seems unlikely to be changed, after Mark Milligan once again proved that he can perform in a holding midfield role, which would mean Mile Jedinak would remain on the sidelines once again.
The Socceroos will undoubtedly seek to land an early blow, which kept them in such good stead at Etihad Stadium last Tuesday night, with the knowledge that Iraq will attempt to thwart them at every opportunity.
In a pre-match press conference in Sydney on Monday, coach Holger Osieck warned against complacency in front what is expected to be a sell-out crowd.
"I am pretty sure we are going to have a pretty good game tomorrow," Osieck said.
"Everybody is 100 per cent focused, we're going to have a great crowd, we play at home and I think there are so many motivating positives, so I'm pretty sure it's going to happen."
For many Socceroos of the 'golden generation', this will be their last chance to qualify for what would be their third consecutive appearance on the world's biggest stage, making them desperate to qualify.
A strong home support, coupled with form and an unchanged lineup boads well for the home side, who will be hoping that they can inscribe another chapter in Australian football folklore to be heralded for years to come. A failure to secure second spot would see Oman leapfrog Australia, handing the latter an all-too-familiar play-off route to the finals.
Iraq on the other hand have made the long journey on the back of a demoralising loss to Japan, courtesy of a last-gasp winner for the Blue Samurai. The defeat killed off any chance Vladimir Petrovic's men had of qualifying for the tournament.
The Lions of Mesopotamia have suffered defeat in their last three matches, but always rise to the occasion when facing Australia.
On this occasion though, a youthful line-up will take to the pitch due to some notable absentees. The visitors will be without the services of two of their greatest players of the decade, former captain Younis Mahmood and Nashat Akram, whom both retired at the end of last week's match.
Attacking midfielder Alaa Abdul-Zahra will also sit out after being suspended after being sent off against Japan.
Speaking through an interpreter on Monday, Petrovic, who defeated Australia the last time he stood in the ANZ Stadium dugout for China in 2008 is confident that he can back up that result on Tuesday and cancel Australia's party.
''I've been here twice to Australia and there was two matches, I've won one match against Australia and I drew one match, so I don't know how I'm going to lose to Australia,'' Petrovic said.
Goalkeeper and skipper Noor Sabri insists that national pride will motivate his side to deny the Socceroos, after acknowledging the difficulties his team has faced in the lead-up to the match.
''Regardless of what we've been through last week, we have the motivation of always getting the best result for our country. As you know, we have a lot of pressure from our fans and this is the only thing that makes our fans happy. So we always think of them and regardless if it's a friendly match or a qualifier, any match we go out there to get the result and carry our country's name in the best way,' he claimed.'
PLAYER TO WATCH: Noor Sabri
Having faced Australia on many occasions, fans on both sides will know how crucial his services are to Iraq.
The most senior member of the squad will most certainly be involved in the match from the get-go, and will be hoping he can replicate the form that earned him Goalkeeper of the tournament in this year's Gulf Cup of Nations.
The Baghdad born custodian is nearing his 100th cap for his country and currently plies his local side Al-Naft.
DID YOU KNOW?
Australia go into this match sitting in 47th spot in the latest FIFA rankings, while Iraq sit 51 places below their Asian counterparts in 98th.
Only one goal has separated the two countries in their last four encounters, with each sides winning two of those games.
Iraq have lost four out of their last five internationals.
Noor Sabri will wear the captain's armband and play his 89th match for his country.
PREDICTION: Australia 2-1 Iraq
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