Australia needs to dominate the early rounds of next year’s Asian Cup and will need to avoid cockiness and complacency, Socceroo star Lucas Neill said today.

Neill told journalists in a teleconference from England that the Socceroos need to aim no lower than achieving top spot in its group.

“I would be embarrassed if the team wasn’t (aiming to) not only qualify from the group but looking and aiming to top it to give ourselves a more comfortable second-round draw” he said.

He acknowledged that Iraq was a threat that had previously given Australia a “run for our money” and the Socceroos would be sailing into “uncharted waters” for its game with Oman.

“We don’t know a lot about them (Oman),” he said. “And of course, playing with the host (Thailand), who always does well in the Asian Cup, I think that’s going to be a tough game; a lot of people are going to want to see an upset in that game. That’ll be one we’ll really have to be focused for.”

Neill said playing in the Asian Cup was going to be exciting for most of the Socceroos squad members that had tasted the thrill of playing in big matches during the World Cup in Germany earlier this year.

“From every Australian player’s point of view, the World Cup would be the pinnacle that you dream of in your career and then to actually have a taste (and doing) fairly well in it, it just makes you want to get that feeling all the time.

“What better way than to have another big tournament like this – world televised, world coverage and get the opportunity to go on and be one of the bigger teams in the tournament that could go on to the latter stages.”

Yesterday, in another media teleconference, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said he would prefer to take on Japan in the later stages of the tournament instead of Iran or South Korea.

“Of course, you have to respect the Japanese because they have done so well over the last five or six years. They are a powerhouse in Asia and they know and understand the conditions,” he said.

“But, to be honest, out of the seeded teams of Japan, South Korea and Iran I’d prefer to play Japan. I think we may have the edge over the Japanese mentally, especially after what happened at the World Cup finals, so I’d prefer to play them.”

But he acknowledges that Iran were “a very big and physically strong side” and South Korea was very fast and physical.

Iran were in danger of missing out on the Asian Cup tournament – to be played next July – after a FIFA ban was imposed on all its international matches for governmental interference in the nation’s football association, but a FIFA statement issued late last night lifted the ban effective immediately.

Peter Fray

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