As the Socceroos ramp up preparations for Australia’s crucial clash with Japan at Stadium Australia on Thursday night, Jamie Maclaren has given an insight into camp.
In one of the biggest games the team has played since joining the Asian confederation, the Socceroos host Japan at Stadium Australia on Thursday night at 8:10pm (AEDT).
Australia currently sits third in Group B in the third stage of Asian qualifying, three points behind second-placed Japan with just the two matches to play.
But the Socceroos have the opportunity to advance directly to this year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar should they earn back-to-back wins over Japan and Saudi Arabia over the next week.
While COVID-19 has sidelined members of the squad and coaching staff, Maclaren insisted there is no cause for concern.
“The squad is big enough and the boys who are coming in are top class - they are there for a reason,” Maclaren told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast.
Thursday night can't come around quick enough because the boys are fresh and we are all ready to go.
“We know the roles and we know the way we want to play. The boss has been very stringent in the way we've done it for the last four years under him.
“It's down to us to go out there and cross that white line on Thursday and put in a performance.
“We just want our fans to turn up in numbers because we believe that having such a big crowd and looking at a sea of yellow, just like we did against Vietnam, will get us over the line."
Having plied his trade in Germany, Scotland and Australia, Maclaren is no stranger to big games and with seven goals in qualification so far, his services could prove to be crucial on Thursday night.
The 28-year-old hopes to use his experiences in big games to push Australia closer to FIFA World Cup Qualification for a fifth consecutive time.
“As I’ve gotten older I feel more comfortable in pressure situations,” Maclaren said.
“Seeing these games being talked about with 60, 70,000 fans, gives me goosebumps rather than fears. It's going to be a great night.
I remember watching the Socceroos play in front of big crowds. I’ve been involved with the Socceroos in front of big crowds and when you talk about big games like this against a good nation like Japan, you want to be involved.
“We’ve got a great squad with a lot of guys who can change a game in the heat of the moment and we've got players in this squad who have scored goals throughout their whole careers.
“We are very good at the back, we have conceded very few goals so we just need to be clinical. I'm really looking forward to Thursday because it's going to be a cracker.”
While Maclaren hopes to have a positive impact against Japan, the Melbourne City striker will be unavailable for the match against Saudi Arabia on the 30th of March due to his own wedding.
Having put his wedding on hold for two years with three forced postponements, Maclaren explained how hard it was to rule himself out.
"I've had a bit on my mind since 2020 when I was trying to marry my partner. A lot has happened," he said.
"Obviously setbacks have happened. Everyone's been through this whole COVID period for the last two years and the unpredictability of it is difficult.
"This date was chosen well over a year ago and the phone call to the boss was a hard one but at the same time, I've got no choice.
"I can't change the date and the venue hold the money and at the same time, my partner has sacrificed a lot as well. It's a tough position to be in but I'm here focused, ready for the Japan game."
Matchday 9: Australia v Japan
Date: Thursday, 24 March 2022
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia
Kick-off: 8.10pm AEDT
Tickets: Tickets available from Ticketek
Broadcast: Live and free in Australia on Network 10 and simulcast on 10 Play