Arnold to fine-tune for Bahrain against Paraguay
Despite the match against Paraguay, being a farewell and celebration for four players in recognition of their long and successful international careers, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold will still use the match to fine-tune for the Bahrain match, which ultimately has much more significance for the game in this country.
Despite the match against Paraguay, being a farewell and celebration for four players in recognition of their long and successful international careers, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold will still use the match to fine tune for the Bahrain match, which ultimately has much more significance for the game in this country.
Arnold will give starts to Zeljko Kalac, Tony Vidmar, Stan Lazaridis and Tony Popovic, who will all end their careers after tonight-s match, but is conscious of not letting the real purpose of the match, match preparation for Bahrain, getting swept under the carpet.
The match against Bahrain next Wednesday night at Aussie Stadium, is especially crucial, as it should provide Australia with a seeding at the Asian Cup next year if its wins. A win will guarantee top spot of the group, but a draw or loss, could see Australia slip to second, depending on the result of next month-s final group match between Bahrain and Kuwait.
The big dilemma for Arnold is how he integrates his four retirees and still get effective preparation for Bahrain.
While there are no great concerns with Kalac in goals, it will be how he uses Vidmar and Lazaridis, with Popovic almost certain to partner captain Lucas Neill at the back.
Given that Vidmar, Lazaridis and Popovic have played in defence for most of their international careers, it-s unlikely they will all play there during the match, as Arnold will want to give his first choice defence at least some time together before the Bahrain match. Lazaridis is therefore could go into a left-sided midfield role, which he is currently playing with Perth Glory to good effect.
This will leave Vidmar to play on the left-side of defence, with Brett Emerton almost certain to play on the right, either as a right full back or right-sided midfielder, depending on which formation Arnold wants to start with.
In Mark Viduka-s absence, John Aloisi once again has the chance to prove his credentials to Arnold, with attacking midfield options Tim Cahill and Marco Bresciano most likely to support in attack.
Vince Grella is almost certain to start in one of the midfield spots, while the remaining spot will be fought out between Jason Culina, Josip Skoko and Luke Wilkshire.
Culina would seem the obvious choice, but he has only just returned to the PSV Eindhoven first team after been sidelined with a calf injury and might not be risked for this clash, while Skoko hasn-t figured for his English Premier League side Wigan Athletic so far this season. Wilkshire, the inexperienced player of the trio, has at least been playing regularly for his Dutch side FC Twente and did impress in his two appearances at the World Cup finals.
In somewhat of a twist, the end of the match against Paraguay, might tell us more about the starting side against Bahrain, once all the retirees are given their final send-offs during the game.
Paraguay meanwhile have suffered a blow in the lead up to the game, with Bayern Munich pair Roque Santa Cruz and Julio Dos Santos pulling out, while also missing will be striker Nelson Haedo Valdez has also been ruled out of the trip through injury.
The loss of the trio, means they have lost most of there key attacking options for the match, their first match since exiting the World Cup finals after the first round.
The match will also be the final game for one of their most experienced players defender Carlos Gamarra.