There's a sense of deja-vu about the Socceroos upcoming fixture against Saudi Arabia. Almost four years ago, Australia was in this same position. They had progressed through the third round of World Cup qualification with a game in hand.
There-s a sense of deja-vu about the Socceroos upcoming fixture against Saudi Arabia.
Almost four years ago, Australia was in this same position. They had progressed through the third round of World Cup qualification with a game in hand.
Their last match? A dead rubber.
Despite already bowing out of the race, China sent a near full strength team. Then Socceroos coach, Pim Verbeek had the luxury of resting key players and combining youth and experience, and ultimately he gave the local talent a run.
Players such as Harry Kewell, Jade North and James Troisi were all looking for new club contracts, so made the trip back to Australia and joined five A-League players in the starting side.
In fact, six local lads played a part that night - if you include Kristian Sarkies, who came off the bench.
The history books show that ahead of the match Australia were not complacent, wanted to win and knew they were playing for future spots. In fact at that stage, many were still vying for a berth in the Olyroos squad.
The record also shows Australia just could not finish, and were beaten 1-0. Ruben Zadkovich had a night on debut that is probably not on his highlights reel and Pim Verbeek felt the full glare of the media-s scrutiny, not to mention the disdain of the 70,000 fans in attendance.
Of the squad in camp ahead of Wednesday-s match, only Matt Spiranovic along with North, Troisi and Kewell played at Olympic Park that night in June 2008.
And of them, only Kewell plies his trade here now. The crop of local talent vying for positions in Holger Osieck-s World Cup reckoning are for the most part, a more experienced bunch.
But dead rubber or not, Osieck has given these players plenty to think about and made no secret of the fact that he is carefully weighing up his options.
His carefully worded responses regarding selections, have left many wondering exactly which 11 will start on Wednesday.
A welcome return is Mark Bresciano, who was - until the last World Cup, a regular in the green and gold. The 18-month absence from international football appears to have rejuvenated the 32-year-old. He-s been banging in the goals at club level with Al Nasr in the UAE, and replicating that form at AAMI Park on Wednesday could give the Socceroos boss food for thought, having previously aired his reticence about the standard of football in that part of the world.
While featuring in the centre of midfield for Al Nasr, before his self-imposed exile, Bresciano predominantly played on the left for his country. Should he slot back in there, the players around him will likely bear little resemblance to his teammates from the FIFA World Cup Squad of 2010.
One familiar face on the left flank may be David Carney, who also makes the trip from the Middle East, despite not having the minutes at club level normally required to be in contention for the National team (though that-s not an unusual occurrence for this defender).
While Osieck-s comments about Carney-s inclusion being in the nature of a ‘gesture-, suggest that Bunyodkor-s new signing will warm the bench in Melbourne, the left back position continues to be somewhat of a problem for the Socceroos.
Michael Zullo was unable to make that spot his own in the match against Thailand, so after spending much of the last year rehabilitating from a third bout of shoulder surgery, this may be a chance for Carney to press his claim.
On the opposite side of the field, the suspension of Luke Wilkshire (courtesy of the yellow card he picked up against Thailand), may give defender Michael Marrone his debut and a chance to build on the favourable impression he has made at the Heart, while Jedinak and Valeri-s absence could just open the door for another debutant Brisbane-s Erik Paartalu in the middle of the park.
If the 193cm Paartalu can show the same on-field strength and maturity he displays at club level he could offer a valuable option in defensive midfield. It would make a nice addition to his CV too, given he has not yet ruled out another move overseas.
In all, nine local players are in Osieck-s squad and the message, unsurprisingly, is that they are not feeling complacent (it would probably be more newsworthy if they said they were)!
The A-League could use some good news right now and it-s hoped some of these lads will get on the park, put in a good shift and banish the ghost of dead rubber-s past.