Hunter at the Crikey sports desk writes:

The Socceroos team that marches out to
confront Kuwait at Aussie Stadium tonight will be a very different outfit to the one
we last saw wearing the green and gold in Germany.
In fact, everything about tonight’s contest will be different to what we traded
many a good night’s sleep for during the World Cup.

With most of the stars of the World Cup
campaign preparing for their respective clubs’ domestic seasons (only two
members of tonight’s team made the trek to Germany – Archie Thompson and Mark
Milligan), their places have been filled by Australian-based players who need
to convince the public that the Socceroos play entertaining football every time
they pull on the national jersey, not once every four years.

As Tom Smithies writes in this morning’s Herald Sun:
“… with 40,000 faithful buying into the message that the Socceroos are now
what (coach Graham Arnold) termed a brand – whoever plays, it’s still Australia
– many of the 18-man squad must overcome nerves and prove they are worth that
public support.”

The stakes are still high, of course. The
winner qualifies for the Asian Cup, a tournament run by the Asian Football Confederation which gives the eventual winner a path through the FIFA Confederations Cup. Kuwait
will be no pushover, having won the tournament before, albeit in 1980. On the
flipside, they have not won a match in their last 12 internationals, a winless
streak that dates back to March 2005.

Trivia buffs will also be interested to
learn that Kuwait beat Australia in the Asia/Oceania World Cup
qualification campaign in 1977, ending Australia’s chances of qualifying for the 1978 World
Cup. New Socceroos assistant coach John Kosmina was a member of that side.

Almost 30 years later, Australia
enters the contest as favourite, and following its win against Bahrain
in February in its first Asian Cup qualifier looks a good chance to progress. A
win tonight will make them the first team to qualify for next year’s finals to
be held in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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