Qantas Under 23 Preview v DPR Korea

The Qantas Under 23’s bid to make the Beijing Olympics, could well be decided in the next week, with two important home matches against DPR Korea and Lebanon.

The Qantas Under 23-s bid to make the Beijing Olympics, could well be decided in the next week, with two important home matches against DPR Korea and Lebanon.

After an impressive 0-0 draw away to Iraq, who are considered group favourites, the Australian players know that the home matches have to count if they are to finish at the top of the group and qualify for Beijing next year.

Six points is imperative from these two games, the first of which is being played in Newcastle on Saturday night against DPR Korea (North Korea), followed by next Wednesday nights clash against group leader Lebanon in Gosford.

The stakes for DPR Korea are high, if they lose then they virtually have no chance of making it to Beijing, after they surprisingly lost 1-0 to Lebanon at home. So we can expect a fired up visitor at EnergyAustralia Stadium, who will are likely to try and play on the counter.

Australia will go into the match without key attacking weapon Nathan Burns (suspended), who has been on fire for Adelaide United in the opening rounds of the Hyundai A-League, but will regain Newcastle Jets striker Mark Bridge, who is looking forward to playing in front of his home fans.

Captain Mark Milligan (suspension), Kristian Sarkies and Leigh Broxham (both injury), also return to the squad, while Billy Celeski's excellent early season form for Perth Glory, earns him a recall to the squad.

Other players missing that featured against Iraq are Matt Spiranovic (illness), plus Neil Kilkenny and Dario Vidosic with injuries.

The return of Milligan is a key and in Spiranovic-s absence, he is likely to slot into the heart of the defence alongside Adrian Leijer. If coach Graham Arnold decides on a four-men backline, Trent McClenahan is likely to win the right back role with Nikolai Topor-Stanley on the left.

Stuart Musialik, who missed most of the Round 2 qualifiers earlier in the year, is especially looking forward to the match, being a local Novocastrian and he is likely to be Australia-s architect in central midfield.

Burns absence however will give Arnold plenty to think about and how he structures his attack. Bridge-s return could see him play a three-man frontline, with Bridge and David Williams supporting Adelaide-s Bruce Djite up front.

Sarkies, who is Australia-s leading goalscorer in the qualifiers to date, will be pushing for a midfield role, as will Sydney FC-s Ruben Zadkovich and Nick Ward, who started against Iraq and did well. Celeski is another attacking option, who can play centrally or in a wide position.

Arnold concedes that two wins from these two games is a must, as it will have them at a distinct advantage, especially with Iraq still to travel to Australia in November.

Given the importance of the games, Arnold and the team are hopeful of two big crowds in Newcastle and Gosford, two areas that rarely see international football. They will however see some of Australia-s best young talent on show and Arnold said that as many as five or six, may have featured in the Socceroos squad that is currently in Melbourne preparing for the Argentina clash, if it weren-t for the clash of fixtures.

Tickets for the match at EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle are available via Proticket, Ph- 02 4915 2345 - and all Proticket agencies (see Proticket website for details).

Tickets for the matches at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford available via Ticketek, Ph 132 849 or