After a near-flawless World Cup qualification campaign spanning almost 18 months, Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek says his side is primed to “finish the job” against Qatar.
Australia need only a point from the match at the Al Sadd Club in Doha to become the first team, aside from hosts South Africa, to book their spot at next year’s finals.
With home matches still to play against Bahrain and Japan this month, the Socceroos are under no immediate pressure to seal second consecutive finals appearances for the first time.
But Verbeek said the intensity and commitment of his players at their training camp in Dubai this week showed just how badly they wanted to book their tickets to South Africa.
“You can see in training, they are very committed to finishing it off,” Verbeek said.
“That’s why they’re here and they’re not having holidays,” said the Socceroos coach.
“They want to go the World Cup and want to do everything to qualify for the World Cup as soon as possible.”
Qualification could not have gone much better for the Socceroos in their first campaign since switching to the Asian Football Confederation.
In the final stage of qualifying, they have dropped only two points, a 0-0 draw against powerhouse Japan in Yokohama and are yet to concede a goal in five matches.
Critics come out
However, they have still earned the ire of some critics, who claim they have played unattractive football.
One of the main criticisms aimed at Verbeek has been his reluctance to use more than one recognised striker away from home but that has not deterred the Dutchman in his planning for Qatar.
Striker Josh Kennedy will lead the line alone with Scott McDonald set to start on the bench, but the side will be far from short on firepower.
Tim Cahill is expected to play, despite speculation he would be rested, alongside Harry Kewell and Mark Bresciano in a three-man attacking midfield.
Vince Grella will make his international return to partner Carl Valeri in a holding role with Jason Culina expected to fill in for the suspended Luke Wilkshire at right back.
Chris Coyne will partner Lucas Neill in central defensive with Scott Chipperfield likely to shake off an ankle problem to slot in at left back.
Cahill is battling a hip injury suffered in Saturday’s FA Cup final but and will be assessed closer to match time.
“He’s very eager to play and to be with us but we have to wait and find out how he is,” Verbeek said.
Qatar will field an inexperienced line-up, missing up to five regulars, but Verbeek was wary of his desperate opponents, who need to beat Australia, then Japan, to have any chance of qualification.