Caltex Socceroos star Mark Milligan has been around long enough to know one thing: in World Cup qualifying, there are never any easy games.
Speaking after this week’s ticket on-sale for Australia’s massive group clash with Japan on October 11 at Docklands, the 30-year-old UAE-based midfielder was keen to stress the arduous nature of World Cup qualifying.
And if history is any gauge, he's absolutely spot on.
“Since we’ve been in Asia, I don’t think there’s been one qualification where everything has gone our way,” Milligan, told Matt Windley of the Herald Sun on Thursday.
Australia’s first AFC World Cup qualification campaign for World Cup 2010 in South Africa, was an arduous one helmed by then coach Pim Verbeek.
Trips to varying conditions in Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Qatar, China and Dubai (for Iraq away) were just some of the challenges.
We only just got through after a well-planned campaign.
The Road to Rio 2014 was even tougher, with losses away in West Asia before the Australians came home strongly in the final three group games.
A famous win over Iraq at ANZ courtesy of Josh Kennedy's superb late header propelled the Green and Gold to their third consecutive World Cup - though it was no easy task by any stretch.
In that campaign we faced the likes of Thailand, Japan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as Oman and Jordan.
In this campaign, similar opponents with similar challenges for Russia 2018.
It all points to a huge challenge once more and Milligan knows it.
“This is definitely not going to be a walk in the park — we need to be on 100 per cent of the time," said the Baniyas star, who's set to remain at the club for the coming season.
Australia open their final phase of qualifiers with a September 1 clash against the always difficult Iraq in Perth.
A few days later on September 6 they’ll be in the UAE to meet Omar Abdulrahman's Asian Cup semi finalists before an away October 6 date with Saudi Arabia.
Then it's a flight back home for the October 11 blockbuster with Japan at Docklands.
An away clash in mid November will round out this year’s qualifiers when Australia heads to Bangkok to face the rapidly improving Thais.
Milligan added: “There’s no weak side in this group.”
Make sure you're there when the Socceroos take on Japan on October 11. On sale now for Football Family members! Sign up here
In-form Vukovic earns Genk contract extension
Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has been rewarded for his excellent form with a two-season contract extension at Belgian club KRC Genk. The 33-year-old's deal was due to expire at the end of the campaign but the Pro League leaders have taken up their option to extend
Aussies Abroad: Vukovic’s Genk beaten in battle of Belgium’s top two
Danny Vukovic’s Genk remain well clear on top of the table despite falling to a rare defeat in Belgium against Club Brugge overnight. In a meeting of the competition’s top two at the Jan Breydel Stadion, Genk were beaten the fired-up home side, going down 3-1. There was lit
Aussies Abroad: Ryan’s Brighton through to Quarter-Finals while Milligan, Giannou pick up strong results
There were a handful of Caltex Socceroos in action on Sunday morning (AEDT) while some key figures were rested as their clubs negotiated cup ties. Firstly to Europe where Mark Milligan played a full 90 at the heart of Hibernian’s midfield as they welcomed new manager Danny Hec
Aussies Abroad: Luongo gallant in Watford defeat
Caltex Socceroos midfielder Massimo Luongo can turn his attention to the EFLChampionship after QPR crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday morning (AEDT). The 26-year-old played the full 90 minutes in QPR’s 1-0 loss to Watford at Loftus Road, in a tight game where each side cou