Culina ruled out of Kuwait clash

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold will have to make do without key midfielder Jason Culina for the clash with Kuwait on Thursday morning (AEST), after suffering a hamstring injury at training with his Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. Culina will not be replaced, leaving Arnold with just 17 players for the match.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold will have to make do without key midfielder Jason Culina for the clash with Kuwait on Thursday morning (AEST), after suffering a hamstring injury at training with his Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

Culina was expected to play a key role, especially as they are likely to play in very warm temperatures, even though kick-off is at 8.30pm in the evening. Having played in the hot temperatures in Germany, Culina was one of Australia-s better players and his ability to run till the end will have been very handy. He will not be replaced in the squad, leaving Arnold with just 17 players for the match.

“Jason figured heavily in my plans in the starting line-up,” Arnold said from Kuwait. “Jason is a player, as you saw at the World Cup, who has a lot of energy even if the conditions are hot. But it opens the door and gives an opportunity to someone else.”

However Culina-s absence is not the biggest concern for Arnold, with the interim coach describing the hot conditions as horrendous. During the day the temperatures are reaching in the vicinity of 50 degrees and it-s expected to be around the mid to high 30-s during game time on Wednesday night (Thursday morning AEST).

“The heat factor is pretty exceptional. I have been all around the world and played in a lot of nations but the heat is quite horrendous.”

The heat means the players will train late at night and keep out of the sun as much as possible in the lead up to the game and require a different training strategy then normal.

“Hopefully we-ll get to train at kick-off time, which is at 8.30pm and is still 39 degrees, and we-ll have recovery sessions in the morning and stay out of the heat.

“But this is part of moving into Asia; it-s going to be a learning curve; we-re taking people out of their comfort zones and it-s going to be a great challenge and test for everyone.

“It-s these types of countries that you have to come to, to play World Cup qualifiers, so that-s why it-s a great learning curve to start off with.”

The heat will also cause Arnold to rethink his strategy come game time, with the main emphasise on conserving the players energy levels throughout the match.

“We like to play a high pressing game further up the field and I think we-ll have to do away with that,” he said.

“To minimise space in behind us and make the field as small as possible, so probably have to drop back to half way and start defending from there. I will be more than interested to see how the players rise to the challenge of a whole new scenario.”

While Australia has already qualified for the Asian Cup next year, Arnold doesn-t believe the players will be lacking any motivation come game time.

“The motivation is always there when you put on an Australian shirt and the expectancy level for the Socceroos shirt and performances has increased ten-fold from what it used to be.

“The players are here because they want to be here.”

With Culina-s absence bringing the number of World Cup players back to eight, of which two are goalkeepers, Arnold basically said that four outfield are up for grabs for those players not from the World Cup list.

“Those players at the World Cup showed what they can do and they will start the game, but I am also interested to see what the other guys can do.”

While Arnold will wait to see what happens in training before getting a better idea of who might join the World Cup stars, he gave every indication that there might be a first cap for Ryan Griffiths, who plays for Rapid Bucharest in Romania.

“We are definitely short of left-sided players at the moment, so this is why I am looking at alternatives in the long run and Ryan Griffiths is a left-sided player; is very quick; we took him to the Olympics in 2004, where he did quite a good job for us.

“Others like Brett Holman, who is doing well in the Dutch 1st Division, Nicky Ward, Ahmad Elrich, are the type of players I will be looking for.”

Arnold will also be without his assistant for the match, after Adelaide United coach John Kosmina saw his flight delayed. This meant he would miss connecting flights and wouldn-t have arrived till the day of the game, so it was decided he would stay in Australia and prepare for his club-s match next Friday night.

The match will be shown live on SBS TV, while a full live commentary update can be seen on the FFA website. The match starts at 3.30am.

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