‘Preparation is key’: Mark Schwarzer’s verdict on June’s play-offs

As all eyes turn towards June's play-offs, legendary Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has given his opinion on the task that lies ahead. 

For the second straight qualification campaign, Australia must take the long route to the World Cup via the play-offs. 

The first hurdle the Socceroos will need to clear is the AFC's third-placed play-off against the UAE in Doha on June 8 (AEST).

If the Green and Gold are successful, they will then face Peru for a place at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. 

In preparation for their crucial clash against the UAE, the squad will take on Jordan in a friendly just under a week before the big game.

Looking to replicate the UAE match as much as possible, the Jordan fixture will see the Socceroos take on Western Asian opposition, in the same climate, city, and pitch conditions that they need to overcome a week later.

Speaking on the Generations of Socceroos - The Goalkeepers podcast with Simon Hill, Mat Ryan and Ron Corry, Schwarzer emphasised just how important the friendly and the week leading up to the UAE clash will be. 

“The friendly against Jordan and everything about the week, two weeks leading up to that game are crucial,” Schwarzer said.

“Unfortunately for us we're in a position where it's come down to this last week but this is the one time when they get a chance to get together and spend some proper time together.

“Hopefully there are no distractions because that can also throw a spanner in the works so let's hope that week is enough to adapt.

“It is so hot and it's so draining, but I hope the guys have got it in them to do that.

It's going to be an enormous challenge but we've always believed when we've always come up against challenges

“Probably not as big as this one in terms of the dramatic circumstances and the situation they're in but we've had big challenges before when trying to qualify against Argentina and Uruguay twice and we've overcome it.

“We've had setbacks and we've also overcome it, so I think the guys know the enormity of the challenge. We all do. They've all been there before, most of them have been there before anyway.

“The preparation is key and hopefully, it goes really smoothly and they give themselves the best opportunity to qualify in incredibly difficult circumstances.”

The Socceroos have a good record against the UAE - winning three times and drawing twice in six matches dating back to their first meeting in January 2011.

The Socceroos embrace each other after scoring against the UAE.
The last time the Socceroos played the UAE was in 2019.

While history is on the side of the Green and Gold, Qatar’s weather conditions pose an obstacle.

Schwarzer, who has represented the Socceroos in the Middle East many times, explained how difficult it is play in humid conditions. 

“People see it on TV and think that the weather looks nice and they wonder why we're not beating a team that's ranked at 90, 100 and whatever it is, in the world,” he explained.

“That's part of the issue as well because the perception is that its great whether, it's a beautiful place and why are we not winning. It's just not the reality.

The reality is those conditions are some of the hardest and toughest conditions to play in and that's why, even though it's a one off game, it's an incredibly tough task.

“You've got to build in all the factors of covid, all that lack of time together and that’s why the lead up is so important.”

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