Australia
2
World Cup Qualifiers
(Thu 01 Sep 2016, 06.30PM LOCAL)
FINAL
Venue: nib Stadium
Attendance: 18923
Fox Sports
Channel 9
Iraq
0

Timeline

FFA TV | Caltex Socceroos team walk

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Socceroos' Road to Russia continues

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Socceroos pre-match press conference

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FFA TV | Socceroos' history against Iraq

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FFA TV | Caltex Socceroos team walk
FFA TV | Caltex Socceroos team walk
Watching
Socceroos' Road to Russia continues
Socceroos' Road to Russia continues
Watching
Socceroos pre-match press conference
Socceroos pre-match press conference
Watching
FFA TV | Socceroos' history against Iraq
FFA TV | Socceroos' history against Iraq

Preview: Caltex Socceroos v Iraq

The Road To Russia 2018 ramps up in the West tonight as a battle-hardened foe face the Caltex Socceroos in the opening clash of the final group phase of World Cup qualification.

“Win your home games” is always the mantra in Asian qualification. 

Particularly so in this group with the Australians facing tricky away tests in the UAE, Saudi, Thailand, Japan and Iran (where Iraq will host).

Caltex Socceroos group opponents guide

So Ange Postecoglou’s men know a win is the only acceptable result, while Iraq you sense would be more than happy with a point.

The good news is, all 23 Australian players have presented well in camp (the last player to arrive was Alex Gersbach), the squad have had three sessions at Perth’s Rectangular Stadium and the strongest possible starting XI will be picked to do the job.

Caltex Socceroos' potential starting XI for Iraq

Ange’s message before crucial World Cup qualifier

Ange Postecoglou and his team's meticulous preparation now comes into play. 

The familiarity of Iraq stems from some epic battles with the Green and Gold over the last decade.

Their Golden Generation stunned Australia at the 2007 Asian Cup, while there was a measure of revenge at the 2011 edition for the Australians.

Then there was that epic 2013 World Cup qualifier in Sydney with the Socceroos edging it 1-0 to book a spot in Brazil.

Last time the Caltex Socceroos faced Iraq

Much has happened since that night three years ago with both nations moving forward with new coaches and a new and exciting generation of players. 

The Iraqis are fighters on the football pitch, we know.

But this squad under the canny guidance of Rahdi Shenaishil is very much one in transition following that special era of Younes Mahmoud, Nashat Akram and others.

Caltex Socceroos' opponent dossier: Iraq at the Games

That said, Serie A-based Ali Adnan can get up and down the pitch on the left with Dhurgham Ismael, while playmaker Yaser Kasim of Swindon (a former teammate of Brad Smith and Massimo Luongo) is class.

And Ali Husni from the Turkish League is highly rated. The 113th ranked nation have some very, very good footballers and their preparation has been excellent (a number of international warm up games over the last month plus a clash with Perth Glory last week).

Then there’s Ali Abbas.

You can’t take the smile off his face this week. He’s loved being back “home” after eight years in Australia, many of them with his beloved Sky Blues.

Ali Abbas reveals he'll be 'Sky Blue forever!’

He could write his own headlines if he scored a winner against the nation that took him in. 

Is that likely? Well, anything is possible in football but this Australian team is pretty special. 

Handily, some of the key Australian players from the Chinese Super League have had a rest last weekend with many likely to start. 

The back four is likely to have the same central two who helped Australia win the Asian Cup, while Mile Jedinak provides the experience and backbone as a holder.

But it’s in the final third where it gets really exciting. Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic are in career best form in the UK. They will ask a lot of questions of the Iraqis.

The amazing life of Tom Rogic

And they’ll likely have any combination of Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mat Leckie and even Tim Cahill to work with in the final third. 

Don’t expect an open encounter tonight. 

Iraq will look to disrupt, defend and try win the game on a moment. Australia will press high, suffocate, attack and try dominate their opponent in dangerous areas. 

An early goal to the Australians and that should set the platform for a win before they head off to Abu Dhabi for their next challenge.

That said, Ange Postecoglou will settle for a goal in time added on if it means three points.

The serious business of World Cup qualification begins tonight.

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FFA TV | We wore them down: Ryan Play Video

FFA TV | We wore them down: Ryan

Mat Ryan says Australia's persistence eventually paid off in their 2-0 win over Iraq in Perth.

Post Match Videos

Pregame videos

FFA TV | We wore them down: Ryan

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FFA TV | Luongo on Iraq opener

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Socceroos win opening WCQ

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Caltex Socceroos press conference

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Watching
FFA TV | We wore them down: Ryan
FFA TV | We wore them down: Ryan
Watching
FFA TV | Luongo on Iraq opener
FFA TV | Luongo on Iraq opener
Watching
Socceroos win opening WCQ
Socceroos win opening WCQ
Watching
Caltex Socceroos press conference
Caltex Socceroos press conference

Caltex Socceroos’ winning start against Iraq

A dominant Caltex Socceroos saw off Iraq 2-0 in their opening group game of the final phase of World Cup qualification in the WA capital on Thursday night.

QPR midfielder Massimo Luongo, on the left of a front three, slotted home the decisive opener just before the hour mark courtesy of a Tomi Juric assist.

And seven minutes later Juric of FC Luzern got his reward for a strong display by poking home a second.

On a cool, clear Thursday night on a perfect pitch in front of 18,923 fans at Perth’s Rectangular Stadium, the pattern of the game was set very early.

Caltex Socceroos wear down Iraq

Australia on the front foot, pressing across the park and creating chances galore. Iraq simply trying to hold on and contain the rampant Australians and take their chances when they arose.

Australia pummelled Iraq in the opening 35 minutes.

Re-live the game in our match centre

In fact, Australia could’ve been one up inside the opening 10 seconds after Juric shot forced Mohammed Hameed into a stop before the rebound was headed back into his hands. 

Juric and Bournemouth's Brad Smith had sighters on goal and a mazy run from Luongo required a last-ditch tackle in the box as the hosts completely dominated.

Iraq’s first real chance, however, was snuffed out brilliantly by centre half Mark Milligan who denied Ali Abbas with a block after the former Sydney FC favourite burst into the box.

Australia hit back with Smith’s pinpoint cross finding Leckie’s head. He craned his head to direct a looping effort onto the post and it spilt harmlessly wide.

The remainder of the first half saw the Australians continue to dominate possession and force Iraq back. But that elusive goal didn’t come.

In fact, Iraq may’ve stolen a lead had Ahmed Yaseen Gheni’s curling shot not fizzed a metre wide of Mat Ryan’s goal.

The Iraqis ended the half with some good possession sensing they’d weathered the Socceroo storm. But Australia were just warming up.

No changes at the break for Australia as they continued to press against a well-organised Iraqi rearguard. And soon the pressure finally told.

After Mooy smashed a cracking shot against the bar, and Juric missed a sitter, on 58 minutes the breakthrough came. 

Juric was set free down the right, his low cross across the goal was guided home by the on-running Luongo.

Juric bullocked his way through minutes later but was unable to make it 2-0 but from the resulting corner, he poked home from in front after Milligan cleverly flicked the ball on.

With the result seemingly in the bag at 2-0, Australia turned the screws as the Iraqis were forced to come out of their shell.

The Socceroos cleverly kept the ball and forced the visitors to work even harder to get back into it. But they couldn’t find a way through and Australia earned three deserved points on the Road to Russia.

Next stop, Abu Dhabi and UAE.