Australia coach Pim Verbeek believes his side are now well prepared to begin their World Cup qualifying campaign following a 2-2 draw with 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts South Africa in London on Tuesday. The Dutch coach said afterwards he is confident his side are beginning to gel ahead of their opening Asian fourth round qualifier next month against Uzbekistan.
The Socceroos' group also includes Japan, Bahrain and Qatar, and they will go on a training camp in the Netherlands at the start of September to prepare for their first test.
"I look forward to our training camp and then our match against Uzbekistan, which is when it all begins," Verbeek said. "This was a good chance to look at all the players for me."
Defender Scott Chipperfield made his first appearance this year for the Socceroos after overcoming a foot problem. "Scott has good experience and has a good feel for space," Verbeek remarked. "He is also very comfotable on the ball. I'm happy he could play 45 minutes and in September he'll be ready for 90 minutes.
"Every player wants to play in the World Cup, but first we have to concentrate on the qualifying games, and Scott wants to be there. We have eleven spots up for grabs. We have three weeks to go and anything can happen.
"I will wait until our training camp and then make up my mind. But I know who is capable of what and have some ideas. The defence is not a concern, but the defensive organisation is not good yet."
South Africa led at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road courtesy of an early Siyabonga Nkosi goal, but strikes from Joshua Kennedy and Mile Sterjovski gave the Australians a half-time lead. Teko Modise, of Orlando Pirates, had the final say, however, as he drilled home a spectacular shot early in the second half.
It was no less than the South Africans deserved, as they turned in a much improved second half performance. Benni McCarthy was back in the South Africa side after being called up by coach Joel Santana. The Blackburn Rovers striker missed CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches earlier this year, but looked impressive in this latest match as he had a role in both goals. He is still short of match fitness but is certainly a key player in the future of the Bafana Bafana side.
"Benni knows how to hold the ball and how to bring the three midfielders into the game," Santana said. "I hope he will be a regular over the next two years but football is always a surprise. I wanted him for the previous games but it was not possible."
As hosts, South Africa qualify automatically for the next FIFA World Cup. And Brazilian Santana is pleased with the way his side are playing their football in a neat passing style, with added flair when necessary.
"South Africa are similar to Brazil in the way they play," Santana added. "My players treat the ball with love and care. That's why we're here. I would never want to play the way Australia play, my players don't have those characteristics."