Socceroo Tarek Elrich says Australia will be up for the challenge of playing on an artificial surface in Tuesday night’s FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™ qualifier against Tajikistan in Dushanbe.
The clash at the Republican Central Stadium will provide a different challenge for many of the players, but one they will be ready to meet, says the Adelaide United defender.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played on an artificial pitch but from experience it’s another thing that you’ve got to overcome when you’re going to different countries and you don’t know what to expect,” Elrich told FFA TV.
“For us an artificial pitch is another challenge but that doesn’t change anything. I’m sure Ange will still want us to play the same style of football.
“Personally for me as a defender I’ll probably try stay on my feet a little more and stay out of those slide tackling chances, unless of course I’m stopping a goal and I’ll definitely put a bit of skin on the line.”
While much has been made of the Socceroos’ emerging young talent on show in last week’s 5-0 rout of Bangladesh, Elrich is another relative newcomer to the national set-up who has impressed on the international stage.
The 28-year-old, who made just his second Socceroos start in Perth, has clearly been reinvigorated by the chance to travel to places such as Bishkek and Skopje with the national team.
“They’re countries and cities that I’d never imagined I’d visit. It’s been a great honour to represent Australia with the Socceroos,” said Elrich.
“It was a dream of mine for a long time. To get to travel with the boys and go to different countries and experience other cultures, how other countries are run is always awesome and I’m really loving it.
“When you’re putting on that green and gold jersey it’s always a special moment and for me I don’t care who it’s against, I’ll make sure that I give 110% because you know you’re not guaranteed to play in the next game.”
The defender expects their hosts, who currently sit fourth in Group B with one point from their first two matches, to be lively given they had a bye on last week’s matchday.
Despite the civil unrest that has cast a shadow on Tuesday night’s match, Elrich is adamant that the Socceroos remain firmly focused on the job at hand.
“Away from home the conditions are different. It’s nice and hot over here, we’re playing on artificial and against a team we don’t know too much about.
“When we went to Kyrgyzstan it wasn’t easy, the boys found it tough.
"Obviously we got that early goal which is always good but they did come at us. We didn’t know what to expect and this is no different.
“We prepare every game like we’re playing against quality opposition and for us we’re here, we know what to do.”
The Tajikistan v Socceroos match will be broadcast exclusively LIVE on FOX SPORTS 1 (channel 501) and on a one hour delay on SBS; tune in from 10.30pm AEST to catch all the build-up before kick-off at 11.00pm.