Strong Aussie squad for crucial Olympic qualifiers

The Qantas Under 23s will be boosted by the return of a number of key players for the crucial home Olympic Games qualifying matches against DPR (North) Korea in Newcastle on Saturday, and against Lebanon in Gosford on Wednesday 12 September.

The Qantas Under 23s will be boosted by the return of a number of key players for the crucial home Olympic Games qualifying matches against DPR (North) Korea in Newcastle on Saturday, and against Lebanon in Gosford on Wednesday 12 September.

Newcastle Jets- duo Stuart Musialik and Mark Bridge will be looking to make a first national team appearance on their home ground in Saturday-s match at EnergyAustralia Stadium, while Mariners pair Danny Vukovic and Bradley Porter will be hoping to do likewise four days later at Central Coast Stadium.

Captain Mark Milligan and key striker Mark Bridge both return from suspension while midfield duo Kristian Sarkies and Leigh Broxham are available again after injury kept them out against Iraq in the opening match of the third and final stage of qualifying a fortnight ago.

Perth midfielder Billy Celeski returns to the squad after a lengthy absence while Turkish-based defender Ersan Gulum has been called up for the first time for a home match after featuring in the squad for the last two away matches. Similarly German-based defender Matthew Spiranovic is set to make his home debut for the Qantas Under 23s after impressing against Iraq.

Also joining the squad for training purposes is Central Coast Mariners defender and former youth international Nigel Boogaard who has been selected after a strong start to the Hyundai A-League season. Joining Boogaard will be Jets duo Jobe Wheelhouse and Troy Hearfield, the latter having represented the team earlier in the campaign.

The Qantas Under 23s though will be without the services of Adelaide United attacker Nathan Burns for the match against DPR Korea through suspension after accumulating two cautions during the campaign.

“The squad will be boosted by the return of some key players and we also have the majority of overseas based players available,” said coach Graham Arnold.

“We have built up some really good depth with this group of players and competition for a starting berth will be quite intense.

“These will be two very difficult and crucial matches over five days but if we can secure maximum points it will lay a tremendous foundation for the remainder of the qualification campaign.

“It is important to have good support from the local fans to help the team in what are really crucial matches. It is also a tremendous opportunity for supporters to see some of our finest young stars in action, many of the whom will no doubt be involved with the Socceroos in the upcoming 2010 World Cup campaign and beyond.”

Australia played out a tough scoreless draw against 2004 Olympic Games semi finalists Iraq a fortnight ago in neutral Qatar.

Australia have been drawn into Group A against Iraq, DPR (North) Korea and Lebanon with only the group winner to qualify. Australia have already progressed past Chinese Taipei in the preliminary stage of qualifying and finished ahead of Iran and Jordan to qualify alongside Saudi Arabia for the third stage.

The camp will commence today and will primarily be based on the Central Coast.

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

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

The Qantas Under 23s squad for the home qualifying matches against DPR Korea and Lebanon is:

Mark Bridge (Newcastle Jets), Leigh Broxham (Melbourne Victory), Nathan Burns* (Adelaide United), Billy Celeski (Perth Glory), Bruce Djite (Adelaide United), Aaron Downes (Chesterfield, England), Ersan Gulum (Vestel Manisaspor, Turkey), Adrian Leijer (Fulham, England), Trent McClenahan (Hereford United, England), Mark Milligan (Sydney FC), Stuart Musialik (Newcastle Jets), Bradley Porter (Central Coast Mariners), Kristian Sarkies (Adelaide United), Matthew Spiranovic (Nuremberg, Germany), Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Perth Glory), Tando Velaphi (Perth Glory), Dario Vidosic (Nuremberg, Germany), Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners), Nick Ward (QPR, England), David Williams (Brondby, Denmark), Ruben Zadkovich (Sydney FC) * Suspended for first match against DPR Korea

Train-on players - Nigel Boogaard (Central Coast Mariners), Troy Hearfield (Newcastle Jets), Jobe Wheelhouse (Newcastle Jets)

Fixtures:- Iraq v Australia 0-0 Wednesday 22 Aug, 7pm local Al Rayyan Stadium, Doha, Qatar

Australia v DPR Korea Saturday 8 Sept, kick-off 7pm AEST EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle

Australia v Lebanon Wednesday 12 Sept, kick-off 7pm AEST Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Lebanon v Australia Wednesday 17 Oct, 6pm local time Beirut Municipal Stadium, Beirut

Australia v Iraq Saturday 17 Nov, kick-off 7pm AEDST Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

DPR Korea v Australia Wednesday 21 Nov, 3pm local time Kim Il Sung Stadium, Pyongyang