After a final warm-up friendly against the Netherlands in Eindhoven on September 6, the Australians open Round 4 of their Asian FIFA World Cup in Tashkent against the largely unknown Uzbeks. Also in Group A with the Socceroos for the next stage of qualifying are Qatar, Bahrain and Japan, with the top two teams earning a berth at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Kewell, the former Liverpool star now playing for Galatasaray in Turkey, has overcome a slight knee injury and was one of the major additions to the Socceroos team that drew 2-2 with South Africa in a friendly last week in London. Premier league duo Brett Emerton and Brad Jones were other notable inclusions in the squad, which will be trimmed down ahead of the trip to Tashkent.
However, current premier league stars Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka, both injured, could not be considered for the clash with Uzbekistan. Verbeek said Kewell, who scored on debut for Galatasaray over the weekend, was over his injuries and shaped as a key player for the Socceroos.
"I met with Harry last weekend and had a dinner with him so I know so far he is very happy with his club," he said. "Turkish football suits him, it's technical and they always attack and he is thrilled to be part of a new world, new faces. He is very happy."
The Dutch coach has largely stuck with European-based players in an experienced squad and the only two A-League players included were Ante Covic and Jade North. While the Australian players have admitted they don't know much about Uzbekistan, Verbeek said he knew what to expect.
"I've been there, so I know what we can expect, I was there with South Korea," he said. "It will be quite a tough game. They play a Russian style. Physically they are strong, but skilful and organised, but okay, our boys are used to it.
"It'll be a hectic night. They are how you say, dark horses. I know Uzbekistan from the Asian Games in Doha and Asian Cup and they were the first team to qualify for next round of World Cup qualifiers."
The Socceroos received a bye for the first match day of the fourth round of FIFA World Cup qualifying. On 6 September, Uzbekistan take on Qatar in Doha and Bahrain host Japan in Manama.
Australian squad: Michael Beauchamp (Aalborg), Mark Bresciano (Palermo), Jacob Burns (Unirea Valahorum) David Carney (Sheffield United), Scott Chipperfield (FC Basel), Chris Coyne (Colchester United), Ante Covic (Newcastle Jets), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven), Bruce Djite (Genclerbirligi), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers), Richard Garcia (Hull City), Vince Grella (Blackburn Rovers), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar), Brad Jones (Middlesbrough), Josh Kennedy (Karlsruher), Harry Kewell (Galatasaray), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Mark Milligan (uncontracted) Lucas Neill (West Ham), Jade North (Newcastle Jets) Michael Petkovic (Sivasspor), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham ), Matthew Spiranovic (FC Nuremberg), Shane Stefanutto (Lyn Oslo) Mile Sterjovski (Derby County) Carl Valeri (Grosseto), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow).