Preview: Qantas Socceroos v Thailand
Australia's journey to a third consecutive FIFA World Cup begins on Friday in Brisbane with what looks a relatively straight forward assignment against world No.120 Thailand.
Date: Friday September 2 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEST Venue: Suncorp Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2
Head-to-head Played 2: Wins Australia 2
Previous meeting Thailand 0, Australia 4, 2007 Asian Cup, Bangkok, July 2011
Past five matches: Australia: Wales 2, Australia 1, friendly, Cardiff, August 2011 Australia 0, Serbia 0, friendly, Melbourne, June 2011 Australia 3, New Zealand 0, friendly, Adelaide, June 2011 Germany 1, Australia 2, friendly, Moenchengladbach, March 2011 Japan 1, Australia 0, 2011 Asian Cup final, Doha
Thailand: Thailand 0, Singapore 0, friendly, Bangkok, August 2011 Palestine 2, Thailand 2, World Cup qualifier, Al Ram, July 2011 Thailand 1, Palestine 0, World Cup qualifier, Buriram, July 2011 Thailand 1, Myanmar 1, friendly, Buriram, July 2011 Thailand 1, Myanmar 0, friendly, Buriram, July 2011
Analysis: Australia's journey to a third consecutive FIFA World Cup begins on Friday in Brisbane with what looks a relatively straight forward assignment against world No.120 Thailand.
However, as the Qantas Socceroos have found out in recent years, no match in Asia is straight forward and no opposition can be underestimated.
Under new coach Winfired Schaeffer, who led Cameroon to the 2002 Africans Nations Cup title and also to the 2002 World Cup, Thailand have been re-invigorated.
They find themselves through to the group stage after a tense two-legged playoff against Palestine, which they prevailed 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 result at home and 2-2 draw away. The hero of that away leg was Datsakorn Thonglao, who scored twice to ensure the War Elephants kept their chance to qualify for a World Cup alive, having failed the previous nine times.
But they have been hamstrung from the very start with several important players injured ahead of this match.
Skipper Nataporn Phanrit has been ruled out with a heart defect, while keeper Thammasatchanan Kawin as well as outfield players Suree Sukha, Nattapong Samsana and Panupong Wongsa are all unavailable.
Of those who are here, Australian fans will be most familiar with Surat Sukha, who made a positive impression as a defensive midfielder and a full back at Melbourne Victory before returning home earlier this year. That means that every one of the 23-man squad plays for a local Thai team, in contrast to the Australian squad which features newly-acquired Brett Emerton as the only Hyundai A-League player.
Australia played Thailand four years ago in the Asian Cup in Bangkok and recorded a comfortable 4-0 win which sealed their progress through to the quarter finals.
Niweat Siriwong, who has been called in and will probably captain the side, played in that game along with Suchao Nutnum and keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (Kocin).
Teerasil Dengda, who was once on Manchester City's books, will play up front with Datsakorn as his supply man.
Qantas Socceroos coach Holger Osieck has a few interesting decisions to make in terms of selection, especially in attack where he has Josh Kennedy and Brett Holman back available after they missed the game against Wales.
Scott McDonald played in that match but has been ruled out here so Osieck will opt for a different set-up. Kennedy and Holman are both regulars when fit and both should get a look in here.
Matthew Spiranovic will also be under pressure to retain his position next to Lucas Neill, with Sasa Ognenovski back in the frame. Others who could be considered for inclusion in the starting 11 are Mile Jedinak, Luke de Vere, Rhys Williams, Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse.
What that tells you is that Australia boast plenty of depth and that Osieck has plenty of options both in this match and the following one against Saudi Arabia in Dammam next Tuesday.
Given Thailand's reputation for defensive football with a preference for possession in midfield, Australia will have to work hard to get the ball and use it well going forward.
Kennedy's height is an asset and should he play, he is sure to be a target from set pieces as will Tim Cahill.
But while set pieces are always the most likely source of goals in qualification matches, under Osieck, Australia have looked very good with the ball on the deck and that will also be a path where the Qantas Socceroos can see themselves getting some joy.
A home match against a lowly-rated opponent could prove a banana skin to some but this Qantas Socceroos team is playing such good football of late you'd be surprised if they didn't get the three points.
Australian squad: Alex Brosque (Shimizu S-Pulse), Tim Cahill (Everton, England), Nathan Coe (Sonderjysk Elitesport, Denmark), Luke DeVere (Gyeongnam, South Korea), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers, England), Adam Federici (Reading, England), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace, England), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus, Japan), Neil Kilkenny (Bristol City, England), Robbie Kruse (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (JEF United, Japan), Lucas Neill (Al-Jazira, UAE), Sasa Ognenovski (Seongham Ilwha Chunma, South Korea), Adam Sarota (Utrecht, Netherlands), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, England), Matthew Spiranovic (Urawa Red Diamonds, Japan), James Troisi (Kayserispor, Turkey), Carl Valeri (US Sassuolo Calcio, Italy), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow, Russia), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough, England), Michael Zullo (Utrecht, Netherlands)
Thailand squad: GOALKEEPERS: Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool (Chonburi), Sivaruk Terdsungnern (Buriram PEA), Chatchai Butprom (Osotspa M-150).
DEFENDERS: Phaitoon Tiebma (Muang Thong), Suttinun Phukhom (Chonburi), Chonlatit Jantakam (Chonburi), Teerathorn Boonmathan (Buriram PEA), Supachai Komsil (Bangkok Glass), Niweat Siriwong (Pattaya), Prathum Chuthong (Osotspa M-150).
MIDFIELDERS: Jakkraprom Kaewprom (Buriram PEA), Datsakorn Thonglao (Muang Thong), Adul Lasoh (Chonburi), Suchao Nutnum (Buriram PEA), Surat Sukha (Buriram PEA), Pokklao Anan (Insee Police), Arthit Sunthornpit (Chonburi), Piyapol Buntao (Muang Thong), Rangsan Vivatchaichok (Buriram PEA).
STRIKERS: Teerasil Dangda (Muang Thong), Chatree Chimtalay (Bangkok Glass), Sompong Sorleb (Buriram FC) and Sarayuth Chaikamdee (Bangkok Glass)