Only a win will do for the Socceroos against Peru in Sochi if they are any chance of making the knockout phase of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.
Bert van Marwijk’s men were unlucky not to get all three points against Denmark in their last match but will need to take their chances come 12am Wednesday morning (AEST), live on SBS and Optus Sport.
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Finding the right man to lead Australia’s attack will be one of van Marwijk’s main decisions ahead of the match, with Andrew Nabbout dislocating his shoulder in the draw to Denmark on Thursday night.
Here are the biggest talking points surrounding Australia's crucial clash against Peru on Wednesday morning, live on SBS and Optus Sport.
DO THE SOCCEROOS HAVE A FITNESS ADVANTAGE?
With both teams heading into their third match in 10 days, fatigue could play its part in the humid conditions in Sochi.
After two high-pressure matches already under their belt, tiredness is something both managers will need to manage with their respective squads.
But if you believe Socceroos winger Mathew Leckie, Australia superior fitness could be a factor in helping them get over the line in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST).
Leckie believes the Socceroos’ gruelling pre-tournament training camp in Turkey has the squad in peak condition to physically dominate the clash against the already-eliminated South Americans.
"Against Denmark in the last 20 [minutes], we had more energy and power than them, which is why if anyone was going to win the game it was going to be us," Leckie said in the lead-up to the match.
"It's difficult to back up three games. If I'm not wrong, at the last World Cup the time between days was one shorter. I remember playing against Spain [in Australia's final group match in 2014], it was tough and I was really tired.
“It will be tough [against Peru] but we're one of the fittest teams. If we're feeling a bit sore then it would be nice to see how the opposition is feeling.”
WHO LEADS THE LINE?
It’s the question on everyone’s lips now Andrew Nabbout has been ruled out of the match.
Nabbout started the first two games in Russia, with coach Bert van Marwijk preferring the Urawa Reds attacker for his speed, incredible work-rate and mobility. In fact, Nabbout has started every game since van Marwijk took charge, so his absence will require the Dutch coach to adapt a tried and trusted approach.
Of the three options at van Marwijk’s disposal to lead the line – Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric and Jamie Maclaren – it’s the latter that has the attributes similar to what Nabbout offered.
Yet when it came to substituting Nabbout in both of the first two games, it was Juric that the Socceroos boss turned to first.
Much will depend on what game plan van Marwijk will look to employ in what is a must-win match for Australia - does he again want an energetic presser who can force opposition defenders to retreat on the counter attack.
Juric offers the ability to hold up the ball to bring his wingers and midfielders into play is his greatest strength, while Maclaren can play off the shoulders of defenders and use his pace to get in behind.
Then there’s Australia’s greatest-ever goalscorer: Cahill. His track record on the biggest stage for the last 12 years gives van Marwijk another option.
CAN AUSTRALIA EXPOSE PERU FROM SET PIECES?
One of the real strengths of the Socceroos in their first two games has been their threat from set pieces.
Both of Australia’s goals have come from penalties, won from set pieces delivered from Aaron Mooy.
In fact, half of Australia’s last 14 goals have come from set pieces – underlining how important that aspect of the game is to their chances of victory against Peru.
The Socceroos obviously did their homework against Denmark in their last match, coming up with a clear – and effective – plan to exploit the weakness in the Danes’ defence.
And you can be sure Australia will target Peru in this area.
Interestingly, the South Americans are the second-shortest team at the tournament, ahead of only Saudi Arabia.
With the likes of Mile Jedinak, Trent Sainsbury, Mathew Leckie – and whoever leads the line – so strong in the air, it looms as a key area for the Socceroos in their quest for the win that could see them make the knockout phase.
HOW WILL VAN MARWIJK UNLEASH ARZANI?
He may be the youngest player in the Socceroos squad – and at the whole FIFA World Cup™ for that matter – but the argument to start teenager Daniel Arzani is intensifying after two impressive cameos so far.
Much of Australia’s late pressure and chances created against Denmark in their last match coincided with Arzani's introduction in the last 25 minutes.
With that rare ability to be able to dribble past defenders, Arzani is a huge weapon for the Socceroos and could make Peru alter their normally full-throttle, attacking style.
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Needing goals and a win to stay alive in the tournament, this could be time to unleash the shackles and let the Melbourne City starlet enter the fray earlier in the match.
"Starting is a totally different kettle of fish. It's one thing coming on and playing for 30, it's another thing playing 90," former Socceroos midfielder Josip Skoko told Omnisport.
"I'm not here to say yes or no, but I certainly think he deserves some game time like he has been, maybe a little bit more each game.
"To start him, it might go the other way, it might not do him justice if he's underprepared or whatever.
"I think he's good enough to do the job if they start him, I'm sure he'd do well. Again, it's what the team needs in terms of balance and how they're setting up and things like that, but whatever happens, I'm sure he'll provide a spark in any which way."
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