Lazaridis To Play In Australia
Birmingham City midfielder Stan Lazaridis has given Socceroo coach Frank Farina a boost for the two-game series against Turkey and the OFC Nations Cup, declaring his availability for all games.
Birmingham City midfielder Stan Lazaridis has given Socceroo coach Frank Farina a boost for the two-game series against Turkey and the OFC Nations Cup, declaring his availability for all games. Lazaridis (pictured right) chances of playing looked bleak after suffering a groin injury early in the match against Manchester United three weeks ago, however yesterday the Socceroo favourite said he was hoping to back on the park in the next week or two. “I-m actually looking to play next week against Arsenal, so it-s looking good and not as bad as first thought,” said Lazaridis in a telephone hook up. “Obviously I don-t see why not (playing against Turkey) and I am fully committed and fully looking forward to coming back.” That is welcome news to Farina who is already without defender Kevin Muscat and possibly current captain Craig Moore, who is having scans on his troubled knee and will know soon if he requires surgery that could rule him out of the games in late May and early June. “It was a grade one strain (of the abductor muscle) and from the physios point of view, it was probably the better of all the strains to get. Basically a grade one is 2-3 weeks out of action.” Lazaridis, who will reach 50 full A internationals if he plays in the two games against Turkey, is very excited about coming back to play in front of a home crowds in Australia. “I am really looking forward to it,” Lazaridis said. “I think its terrific for the public as well that they can finally see us (the Socceroos) all back and see the best players come back to play in front of a home crowd. From a personal point of view it-s great. “Also we-ve played a lot of games away and had a lot of good results and it-s a shame we haven-t capitalised on that by returning home sooner and playing games. So this is a good opportunity for us to come back and obviously attract more people to come and watch the games.” Turkey is expected to bring a full strength squad that will include a few new faces, as they now prepare for their own 2006 World Cup qualifiers that will start later this year. Turkey finished third at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan/Korea and its failure to beat Latvia in the Euro 2004 play-off was considered a major shock. Interestingly enough they have just chosen Socceroo midfielder Josip Skoko-s trainer Ersun Yanal at Genclerbirligi to take charge of the National Team starting with the trip down under. Lazaridis has no doubt-s the two matches against Turkey, who are currently ranked 8th on the FIFA World Rankings, will be high quality affairs and believes these games will give a good indication of where the Socceroos are at on the world stage. Asked if he was surprised that the Socceroos were playing Turkey, after they failed to qualify for the Euro 2004 Championships in Portugal (June), Lazaridis said, “Yes I was, mind you they were in a toughish group. “It (Turkey) is a very good team. I mean a lot of their players play at big name clubs and they actually are very good games I have to say. It-s going to be interesting to see how we go against them and is definitely a good test for us.” Unbeaten in its last three matches, the Socceroos will head into the Turkey games full of confidence it can achieve positive results and go into the OFC Nations Cup, which are also acting as World Cup qualifiers (Stage 2) on a high. Asked about confidence among the team, Lazaridis said, “We always think that way. We have a lot of good players and we feel we are a match for anyone. On our particular day we can beat any team in the world. In another positive note for the Socceroos, Lazaridis said that a lot of his focus over the next two years would be on Australia and reaching the World Cup. He has no doubts the other players, especially the older ones like Kevin Muscat, Paul Okon, Tony Vidmar, Danny Tiatto, Mark Schwarzer and Tony Popovic will be in the boat as this is likely to be their final opportunity to play in the greatest event in world sport. Lazaridis also reserved praise to the younger players coming through especially Parma-s Marco Bresciano. “You need younger players coming through and not only coming through, but coming in and commanding positions and making them their own. Marco Bresciano has come in and he has really set the team alight, while Simon Colosimo-s game against Venezuela was very impressive, Vince Grella and Mile Sterjovski have shown good technical ability when they have got a run. “There is one or two others and it (the future) is looking healthy and you have to, as we will lose a lot of players after this campaign and you need faces that are going to be good enough to stand the test of time and maybe stay around for 2-3 campaigns.” Lazaridis also said he thought the game against Venezuela was extremely beneficial and would like to see the Socceroos play one or two more games in South America in order to get a feel of what it will be like if we get through to the final qualifier against the 5th placed South American qualifier. He also ruled out any immediate return to Australia, saying he needed to be playing at the highest level in order to be a benefit to the Socceroos, but after the 2006 World Cup would definitely consider coming back to play in the new league. The Socceroos play Turkey on Friday May 21 at Aussie Stadium in Sydney (ticket information available at www.ticketek.com) and the second game is on Monday May 24 at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne (ticket information available at www.ticketmaster7.com). For further details click on http://www.australiansoccer.com.au/public/article/show.asp?articleid=6596