Schwarzer eyes Australian resurgence
Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer believes Saturday's friendly against Nigeria in London offers a perfect chance for the Socceroos to get back on track. Schwarzer's team have been in limbo since July's disappointing Asian Cup campaign ended with a quarter-final defeat by Japan.
Head coach Graham Arnold stepped down and Rob Baan has taken over as caretaker manager while the Australian Football Federation search for a permanent boss. That process is finally close to a resolution, with former Netherlands and Korea Republic tactician Dick Advocaat reportedly set to be appointed when his contract with Russian champions FC Zenit expires later this month.
Advocaat could be at Fulham's Craven Cottage this weekend to run the rule over his prospective new players. But regardless of the Dutchman's presence, Schwarzer insists that painful memories of the Asian Cup should ensure Australia have no shortage of motivation in their first match since September's defeat by Argentina.
"We didn't perform to our potential, our own
expectations or everyone else's expectations at the Asian
Cup," he said. "It was a major disappointment for us.
"Since then we've only played a game against Argentina which was a very good performance considering the number of players we had missing. This is another stepping stone and we need a good performance because the World Cup qualifiers are just around the corner."
With Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka, Jason Culina, Mark Bresciano, Michael Petkovic and Vincenzo Grella all unavailable, Baan could test out the next generation of Socceroos. In-form Celtic striker Scott McDonald is likely to start alongside Nurnberg's Josh Kennedy. Baan also named uncapped goalkeepers Nathan Coe and Adam Federici in the squad, while Leicester's James Wesolowski could make his debut.
McDonald has scored 11 goals in his last ten games for the Scottish champions, with the highlight a winner against UEFA Champions League holders AC Milan. Like Kennedy, McDonald has won just four caps to date but Schwarzer is confident the Melbourne-born player and his fellow young guns will take their chance against Nigeria.
"It's always a good test when you only have a limited time together," Schwarzer said. "Nigeria have always been a pretty strong team and one of the toughest in Africa in the last 15 years. I don't expect anything different on Saturday.
"And we've got five or six players out injured. That gives opportunities to the younger guys who have had limited chances to come in and hopefully stake their claim for a regular position in the squad."
If Australia are to rediscover a winning formula, much depends on Kennedy and McDonald's ability to strike up a little-and-large double act. The two strikers couldn't present more of a contrast - at 6ft 4in Kennedy towers above 5ft 8in McDonald. But the smaller partner has no doubt the combination can work.
"I've known Josh for quite a long time, since I was 16 or 17. He's a Victorian boy as well," McDonald said. "If we go that way, I've been playing with big Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink all season, so I'm pretty familiar with it."
Everton's Lagos-born striker Victor Anichebe is finally set to make his debut for Nigeria. Anichebe, 19, is eligible to represent England as well as his country of birth, but he has turned down Stuart Pearce's attempt to persuade him to play for the English U-21s.