It would be impossible to look at Australia's friendly against Malaysia without first touching on the absentees from Holger Osieck's Qantas Socceroos squad.
Date: Friday, October 7 Kick-off: 8pm AEST Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Head-to-head Played 6, Australia 5, Malaysia 1, 0 draws
Previous Meeting Malaysia 1, Australia 0, Jakarta, August 1992
Past five matches: Australia: Saudi Arabia 1, Australia 3, World Cup qualifier, Dammam, September 2011 Australia 2, Thailand 1, World Cup qualifier, Brisbane, September 2011 Wales 2, Australia 1, friendly, Cardiff, August 2011 Australia 0, Serbia 0, friendly, Melbourne, June 2011 Australia 3, New Zealand 0, friendly, Adelaide, June 2011
Malaysia Malaysia 1, Singapore 1, World Cup second round qualifier, Kuala Lumpur, July 2011 Singapore 5, Malaysia 3, World Cup second round qualifier, Singapore, July 2011 Chinese Taipei 3, Malaysia 2, World Cup first round qualifier, Taipei, July 2011 Malaysia 2, Chinese Taipei 1, World Cup first round qualifier, Kuala Lumpur, June 2011 Malaysia 2, Myanmar 0, friendly, Kota Bahru, June 2011
Analysis: It would be impossible to look at Australia's friendly against Malaysia without first touching on the absentees from Holger Osieck's Qantas Socceroos squad.
Missing are much of the Socceroos' backbone for the best part of a decade; Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill are injured, while Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell will concentrate on making their much-anticipated Hyundai A-League debuts on Saturday. The quartet boasts 290 caps of experience between them, leaving captain Lucas Neill, right-back Luke Wilkshire and attacker Brett Holman as the only players with more than 50 Socceroos appearances to their name.
In previous years, the absence of the four stars might have forced the Socceroos to fend off questions over their depth. But Holger Osieck's willingness to offer opportunities to players formerly on the periphery has inspired confidence in Australia's generation-next, and they will again relish a chance to impress against Malaysia in Canberra.
Ranked 147th in the world, Malaysia loom as the weakest opponent the Qantas Socceroos have faced since meeting India at the 2011 Asian Cup in January. That the Qantas Socceroos lost 1-0 to Malaysia in the last meeting between the two sides, in 1992, should worry Osieck little.
Managed by former striker Datuk K. Rajagopal, Malaysia failed to get past Singapore and into the AFC World Cup qualifying group stage, and just one of their squad for the trip to Australia - Indonesian-based forward Mohd Safee Mohd Sali - plays outside their national league.
If Australia does need reminding of the folly of underestimating a minnow, however, then they only need to ask Matt McKay and Michael Zullo about the last time the Qantas Socceroos played in Canberra. The duo were part of an Hyundai A-League-based team that were shocked 1-0 by Kuwait in an Asian Cup qualifier in the capital, and will be desperate to avoid the same fate on Friday. Both should start for the Qantas Socceroos, depending on how Osieck wants to approach Tuesday's more important World Cup qualifier with Oman.
The absence of the established stars means there are a handful of questions marks over the Qantas Socceroos XI for Oman, lending further weight to the match with Malaysia. With Osieck only taking a squad of 18 into the two matches, the likes of Adam Sarota, James Troisi, Matthew Spiranovic and Alex Brosque are likely to get an opportunity to press their claims.
The Qantas Socceroos manager has not showed a reluctance to make a big call, evidenced by his relegation of Cahill to the substitutes bench in the World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in September. Opportunity has knocked regularly under the likable German. Will any answer against Malaysia?
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