Olyroos v Samao - 13/01/2004
After arriving in Australia on New Years day, we’ve played two warm up games – beating Korea 2-1 in Perth, and then drawing 2-2 with Brisbane. The latter game was a little disappointing as we could and should have the game. Having said that, it’s all about preparation and the real work starts when we face Samoa tomorrow night. It’s hot over here – quite a contrast to Bristol and although it’s nice to get some sun of my back, it’s not easy playing football in the heat. The flight was tough, but after celebrating New Year in the plane, I’ve had time to adjust and get rid of any jet lag. I’m happy with my fitness and form and looking forward to the game.
We’re expected to win – and win well – and rightly so, but have to be professional and prepare with focus and determination. We simply can’t afford to slip up so there’s no room for mistakes. I’d love to represent the Australia in the 2004 Olympics – and it’s even more special with the games being held in Athens – the home of the Olympics.
I haven’t forgotten about the Robins and it’s good to see that the results are going for us in England, with Plymouth and Barnsley dropping points. I’ve attached the latest report from the Australian Soccer Association’s website – so why not log on to get the latest news and results?
The Australian Under 23 team will ignite their qualification campaign for Athens 2004 when they take on Samoa at Marconi Stadium tomorrow night.
It is expected that Australian coach Frank Farina will name Newcastle United midfielder Ryan Griffiths (pictured right) as the only change to the squad that defeated the Republic of Korea 1-0 in Perth a week ago.
Likely lineup: Eugene Galekovic (gk), Jade North, Ljubo Milicevic (c), David Tarka, Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Ahmad Elrich, Carl Valeri, Luke Wilkshire, Ryan Griffiths, Alex Brosque, Brett Holman.
“As I’ve maintained, you could put any of the players here in the starting eleven and they’ll do a job,” said Farina. “Ryan played very well against Brisbane, scored a goal and was a constant treat down the left hand side.”
If Griffiths is chosen he will be one of five National Soccer League players named in the starting eleven, which is expected to account for their opponents with ease.
“We’re not going to change our approach to the game,” said Farina.
“We’ll go out there to play as well as we can and score as many goals as we can.” Swiss based defender Ljubo Milicevic will captain the side and expects no shortage of motivation for the players, despite the apparent chasm in quality between the two sides. “I think for us, every game is important because we haven’t had many games together,” said Milicevic.
“It’s definitely not the same as playing an Italy, or France, but at the same time, it’s an international and you’re out there representing your country.”
The last time that the two nations met at any level was in Coffs Harbour in 2001, when the Socceroos thrashed Samoa 11-0. Many expect the ambitious Samoans to suffer a similar fate this time around, although Samoa coach David Brand expects his charges to push their more fancied opponents all the way. “On paper, we should be the lambs to the slaughter,” said Brand.
“But we’ve got a little bit of resolve, a bit of determination and if we can keep the game tight, sometimes the underdogs have their day.”
Brand’s squad features goalkeeper Pasi Schwalger, who plays with Victorian Premier League outfit Prestion Lions, as well as one of the most promising talents from the pacific, striker Desmond Faaiuaso. Faaiuaso, who has already been capped at senior level has scored in each of Samoa’s four lead up games in Australia, including a 2-1 victory over Australian Premier League hopeful, the Brisbane Lions. “He certainly knows where the back of the net is,” said Brand. “Given the chance, I’ll tell you, he’ll put it away!”
As an added treat to the audience that awaits them, the Samoans promise to maintain their reputation as the only nation in the world to perform a haka before kickoff. “We might not win many games,” Brand quipped.
“But we’re number one when it comes to the haka!”
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