Harry Kewell says he is keen to play a full match in Australia's final Asian FIFA World Cup™ group qualifier with China here on Sunday as he continues his recovery from lengthy injury spells.
The Aussie skipper has split with Liverpool and is on the lookout for another club and wants to complete his month-long batch of four matches with the Socceroos to regain confidence after a nightmare injury run.
Australia are already through to the final phase of Asian qualifiers, starting in September, after beating Qatar 3-1 in Doha last Saturday. The Socceroos will be looking to finish on top of their group against China, who have been eliminated from the FIFA World Cup.
Coach Pim Verbeek is planning on resting some of his European-based stars for the Chinese game, but has confirmed that Kewell will be playing. "Our main goal was to get through to the next phase. We've achieved that with a game to go," Kewell told reporters at Sydney Airport on Monday.
"There's a very important game on Sunday that we want to win. And then we'll look forward to the next round."
Kewell, whose contract with Liverpool is not to be renewed, has been substituted in each of Australia's three qualifiers this month as he is eased back into competitive football, but he wants to play for the 90 minutes before his home-city fans this weekend.
"I felt great in the first match when we played Iraq in Brisbane. The second match in Dubai was a lot different. The heat was extremely difficult but we did our best to overcome that," Kewell said.
"And against Qatar it was really good, I knew I could've easily lasted 90 minutes, so I'm looking forward to 90 minutes (on Sunday)."
Kewell, 29, said he is relishing playing regularly again after repeated injuries restricted him to just 93 league appearances for Liverpool since arriving from Leeds in July 2003 for £5 million (US$10 million).
"It's just nice to be playing football again," he said. "Once you've been starved of something you love, your passion really drives you on. I'm just going out there and enjoying myself."
Verbeek said Sunday's match would provide an opportunity to test some of his younger players alongside a core group of senior stars.
"We're going to keep some players here because we're going to win, we like to win, we'd like to finish with 13 points after the six games," Verbeek said Monday.
"A lot of tickets (are) sold so we want to show the fans that we really are the best team in this group."
He said the players who would remain in the squad for the China match included Michael Petkovic, Michael Beauchamp, Jade North, Carl Valeri, Brett Holman and Kewell.
Verbeek said three members of the squad were suspended following the Qatar match - goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, defender David Carney and midfielder Luke Wilkshire - and there were a further three players on a yellow card caution.
"They have to be very careful because the second yellow card and they are out in the next round, so that's (something) we have to try and avoid," he said.