Australia coach Pim Verbeek has vowed no let-up against Bahrain tomorrow despite Australia having already secured their passage to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The Socceroos clinched back-to-back FIFA World Cup appearances after taking home a point from their 0-0 draw with Qatar in Doha last Saturday to join Japan at South Africa 2010. Although qualification is secured, Verbeek said he is planning on fielding his strongest available side against Bahrain, who still have the incentive of playing for a potential FIFA World Cup play-off against Oceania champions New Zealand.
Verbeek will have to find replacements for left-back Scott Chipperfield, midfielders Carl Valeri and Marco Bresciano, as well as suspended captain Lucas Neill. He said Australia, level on 14 points with Japan but ahead on superior goal difference, intend to win their group. Australia will play their last qualifier against Japan in Melbourne on 17 June.
We want to be number one in this group. We want to show the fans we deserve to go to the World Cup,
"We want to be number one in this group," Verbeek said. "We want to show the fans we deserve to go to the World Cup. They know it already, but we want to show them."
Verbeek said Chipperfield has been allowed to return to Switzerland to nurse a foot injury, while Valeri has returned to Italy to help his team, Grosseto, in its play-off bid to win promotion to Serie A. Bresciano has also been excused to avoid what Verbeek called "logistical problems" returning to Italy.
Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer said he and his defenders would be trying to get through the entire qualifying stage without conceding a goal. "It's going to be tough, but we think we can do it," the Fulham 'keeper said.
Bahrain coach Milan Macala said he doubted his team would benefit from any relaxing by the Socceroos as they continue their own quest to qualify for South Africa. Bahrain need one more point from their remaining two qualifiers to be sure of third place in Group A. "For us we need one point, everything is in our hands and we don't want to wait until our last game against Uzbekistan," Macala said.
Australia have yet to lose to Bahrain in three encounters and beat them with a last-minute goal in Manama in their first FIFA World Cup qualifier last November.