Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek says his players are fit and ready to fire ahead of Australia’s crucial Asian Cup qualifier against Oman tonight.
The coach says aside from midfielder Vince Grella, who will miss the game following a thigh injury during the team’s clash against the Netherlands, he has a full complement to choose from.
The Socceroos must beat Oman in their Asian Cup qualifier at Etihad Stadium or risk missing the 2011 finals in Qatar.
The 2007 edition of the tournament proved a disastrous first foray into Asian football for the Socceroos, sent packing in the quarter-finals after coming into the region boasting star billing.
Along the way, they were outplayed and humbled by Oman in their opening group game in Bangkok, only scraping a 1-1 draw thanks to an injury-time Tim Cahill equaliser.
But much has changed since.
Graham Arnold has been shunted sideways on the bench to make room for Asia-savvy coach Pim Verbeek.
And the Socceroos have made next year’s World Cup finals by dominating both their Asian qualifying groups and are easily Asia’s No.1 team – ranked a lofty 14 in the world.
Yet the Asian Cup standings tell a different story – Oman currently top of Group B with four points from two matches and Australia struggling with a draw and a loss.
“If you look at the table at the moment, they have more points than us and that’s a true reflection of how the group is – we haven’t performed, they have,” Neill said.
“The lessons we learned in the Asian Cup in Bangkok is something we take into games like this to give us a reminder that we have to make sure from the very first whistle that we’re ready.”
Verbeek has left nothing to chance as Cahill and Harry Kewell lead a near-full strength squad after relying on A-League selections for the two previous Asian Cup qualifiers.
Three changes loom to the starting line-up which pinched a 0-0 draw with the Netherlands in Sydney last weekend.
Carl Valeri will replaced the injured Vince Grella in midfield, while veteran left-back Scott Chipperfield is set to step in for David Carney.
And Brett Emerton could be the surprise and make a return to the Socceroos’ starting side following a serious knee injury.
Brett Holman is most likely to miss out should that happen.
Emerton played a key role at the Socceroos’ final training session at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Verbeek said he expected Oman to play a defensive game and chase a valuable away point rather than chase the win.
“Everybody is here, everybody is ready. I think we can do a very good job tomorrow,” Verbeek said.
“Oman has four points so a point away is enough.
“I expect them to be very well organised in defence, wait for the right moment and try to score a goal from a counter-attack.
“Oman is a very good team, but I think that is the way they will come – they’ll be happy with a point.
“We have to beat them, that’s our job.”
Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Luke Wilkshire, Craig Moore, Lucas Neill, Scott Chipperfield, Jason Culina, Carl Valeri, Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Josh Kennedy.
Oman: Ali Al Habsi, Fauzi Basheer, Khalifa Ayel, Mohammad Al Sheeba, Hasan Mudaffar, Ahmed Hadid, Hashem Saleh, Ismail Al Ajmi, Emad Al Hossani, Badr Al Meymani, Hassan Rabea.