McGowan: The Adelaide Oval could make the difference

Ryan McGowan is thrilled Australia have decided to stage their decisive 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Saudi Arabia in his native Adelaide. Saudi Arabia lead Group B, above Japan on goal difference. Australia and United Arab Emirates are one point behind. The Socceroos hosted their first two third-round preliminaries in Perth and Melbourne, but after welcoming the UAE to Sydney in March, they will lock horns with the Saudis at the Adelaide Oval on 8 June.

“To represent Australia on home soil is a magical feeling, and do it in the city that you grew up in is even better,” said McGowan. “There is nothing better than running out and playing in the Green and Gold in front of your family and friends in your hometown.

“We will be getting to the business end of the qualification campaign and to have a large vocal home support could be the difference in our bid to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. I’m sure that my fellow South Australians will be there in numbers to cheer us on.”

The 27-year-old Henan Jianye defender could be right. Although the Adelaide Oval predominantly hosts cricket and Aussie rules matches, football has traditionally produced high crowds there. Indeed Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Adelaide United last year – McGowan’s younger brother Dylan was on the losing side – set the striking stadium’s third-highest event attendance, beaten only by the 1965 SANFL Grand Final and a Rolling Stones concert in 2014. Over 50,000 also watched Guillermo Amor’s Adelaide United defeat Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 at the Adelaide Oval in May’s A-League Grand Final.

The venue has witnessed magnificent individual performances from the likes of Don Bradman, Ken Farmer, Kapil Dev, Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Kevin Pietersen and Jay Schulz.

Australia’s last outing at the Adelaide Oval ended in a 7-0 thrashing of Tajikistan in the last round of World Cup qualifying. After taking on Saudi Arabia, Ange Postecoglou and his squad will travel to Russia for the FIFA Confederations Cup, where they will face Germany, Chile and the soon-to-be-discovered African champions in Group B.

The Socceroos’ best performance at the World Cup came in 2006, when a thrilling 3-1 comeback victory over Japan helped them reach the Round of 16, where they gave eventual champions Italy a serious fright before going down 1-0.

McGowan, who began his professional career in Scotland with Hearts, played against Alex Teixeira and Douglas Costa in Australia’s 3-1 loss to Brazil at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009. He set up Tim Cahill’s header against Chile and extraordinary volley versus the Netherlands at Brazil 2014.