On Monday the Socceroos will walk onto the
world’s greatest sporting stage after an absence of 32 years to take on Japan in
the picturesque town of Kaiserslautern.

Kaiser, of course, is German for Emperor.
Slautern is German for … er, Slautern (someone tells me it is something to do
with a river but that ruins my gag). So to recap, on Monday in Emperor Slautern
the Emperor-less Australians take on the Emperor-laden Japan. Is
this an ominous sign for Australia
or will it be a case of Emperors to the Slautern for Japan?

Player for player the Australian first XI
is better than Japan. The majority of Australia’s
starting players are regular performers in the top European leagues of England, Italy and
Holland. Japan boasts only six players from outside the Japanese J-League, and
while it is a better standard than our own A-League it is not comparable to Europe’s top leagues.

It is too early to know whether Harry
Kewell will start. Hiddink might employ a similar strategy to the one used
against Uruguay – let the Aussies soak up the early pressure before
introducing Kewell on the half hour mark. Cahill however is expected to start
and his presence will be a massive boost for the Socceroos.

Our weakness is defence and if Neill or
Moore sustains an injury during the game, Australians will be sitting even
closer to the edge of their seats if the replacement is Tony Popovic. The
Japanese will struggle to restrict the imposing Viduka with their lack of
height and Josh Kennedy will dominate in the air when he makes a late
appearance.

It is no secret that Australia
must not concede an early goal – this would leave the team low on confidence
and with Mount Fuji to climb. Having waited so long to play in the World Cup there will
undoubtedly be nerves in the team. This match may not be the spectacle that
many expect in World Cups. Spectacular attacking football doesn’t usually feature
in the first game played by any team. Most teams are just too scared of
conceding, and understandably so.

We are here Australia,
our time is now. Failure is not an option. Australia
can, and we believe will, defeat Japan on
Monday by two clear goals. Come on Aussie, come on!

Likely lineup: Schwarzer; Emerton, Neill,
Moore, Chipperfield; Grella, Culina; Bresciano, Cahill, Sterjovski; Viduka.

For
more world cup coverage, visit The Soccer Squirrel
.

Peter Fray

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