Milicic confident analysis can give Australia the edge

Caltex Socceroos assistant coach Ante Milicic is confident Australia’s scouting network is of the highest standard possible as Australia's World Cup qualification campaign ramps up over the coming week.

Australia's squad is in Jeddah for a top-two clash with Saudi Arabia on Thursday night (Friday morning, AEST) before heading home to face Japan in Melbourne on October 11. 

Before leaving for the Middle East, Milicic was at Valentine Park in Sydney last week, casting his eye over the young Aussie talent on display in the inaugural PS4 Player Pathway Award.

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The former Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Heart assistant coach took the young players through drills taken from the national team's program. 

And he revealed it was not the only scouting work he’d been doing recently.

“I think that’s the strength of the Australian national team - the way that we do our research on opposition teams,” Milicic told www.socceroos.com.au

“Yes we believe in our own ability and we always base ourselves about our game but we do a lot of work on the opposition.

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“We know their strengths and weaknesses, their squads, their preferred formation, the individuals' stats and profiles.

“We’ve compiled a fairly comprehensive preview on the opposition sides and it’s something that we take very seriously, as we want to give the players as much information as we can.”

While Australia, Japan and South Korea have all qualified for the last three World Cups, Milicic warned it should not be taken for granted that these nations would continue to dominate the region.

Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have all surged up the FIFA rankings in recent times, with the latter two within seven places of the 45th ranked Australia. 

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Milicic added it was no surprise to see countries in the Middle East doing well, given their huge investment in football. 

“We followed both Saudi Arabia and UAE during the European off-season,” said Milicic.

“The months of late June and July these respective nations went to European training camps, they’ve played a lot of quality opposition in terms of training games they’ve had.

“Saudi obviously has their foreign coaching staff from the Netherlands also.

“They’re doing things right, they’ve invested a lot in their football, they’ll be prepared well and it’s no surprise to see that these games are going to be very difficult and we expect that."