Socceroos captain Lucas Neill says that Australia‘s progrssion in the AFC Asian Cup rests on their ability to flex their muscle and convincingly beat Bahrain.
If we can’t beat Bahrain, we can’t win the Asian Cup.
That’s the message from Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill ahead of Australia’s crucial clash against Bahrain at Al-Sadd Stadium.
The Socceroos only need a draw in the Asian Cup Group C battle to progress to the quarter-finals, but Neill is demanding his side flex their tournament muscle by clinically disposing of the nation placed a lowly 93rd in the FIFA world rankings.
Neill also won’t accept excuses, despite the almost certain injury-enforced absence of key pair Jason Culina (knee) and Luke Wilkshire (groin).
“If we’ve got any ambition, which we do, we’ll make sure that we win this game very professionally and get it done as quick as possible,” Australia’s captain and defensive rock said.
“The guys that are going to come in are going to have to hit the ground running, but the way that the manager has had them training, I’m sure they’re ready and raring.
“There’s certainly a great hunger and a desire in the team to want to be successful and everybody wants their chances, but they realise that sometimes they might have to show a bit of patience. I’m sure whichever team plays will be able to execute the job.”
Osieck confirmed midfielder Carl Valeri and defender Jade North as the respective replacements for Culina and Wilkshire, two of three players injured in Australia’s last-start 1-1 draw with South Korea. However, the German-born mentor is set to risk David Carney’s dodgy shoulder by again starting him at left fullback.
“I think he will be OK,” a hopeful rather than confident Holger Osieck said.
It’s perhaps because left back is the one position in the Socceroos’ 23-man Asian Cup squad that Osieck failed to named adequate cover for.
In saying that, left-sided midfielder Matt McKay has sufficient versatility to play in the role if required.
“He’s a very intelligent player and he can play in a couple of different positions,” Osieck said.
“I like him very much. I like to work with him, he’s very receptive, he’s very mature as a person and as a player.”
Osieck backed Gold Coast United captain Culina, Australia’s most serious injury concern with an ongoing knee problem, to return to the field later in the tournament, provided the Socceroos remain alive after tonight.
“He’s carrying this kind of handicap with him the last couple of months, even with his club,” Osieck said.
“We can’t write him off. He’s going to be back. I’m pretty sure about that.”
Fearing further setbacks, Osieck has gone into protection mode with his players.
“The manager has wrapped us in cotton wool,” Neill said.
“We’ve got to eat hotel food only. Nobody’s allowed to snack anywhere else in case of food poisoning, he’s not leaving anything to chance.”
by Buford Balony