Wilkshire primed for telling display

BANGKOK: One of the less profiled members of the Socceroos’ Asian Cup charge is midfielder turned defender Luke Wilkshire, whose contribution at left back and, in particular, from set pieces, could very well decide Australia’s fate against Thailand on Monday.

BANGKOK: One of the less profiled members of the Socceroos- Asian Cup charge is midfielder turned defender Luke Wilkshire, whose contribution at left back and, in particular, from set pieces, could very well decide Australia-s fate against Thailand on Monday.

While Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill and Mark Viduka are essentially celebrities in Thailand by virtue of the exploits in the English Premier League, Wilkshire is one who enjoys a relatively low profile.

Wilkshire has adjusted impressively to life along the Qantas Socceroo back line, and, is set to assume greater responsibility in the absence of experienced centre half Lucas Neill, who was sent from the field in the final minute of injury time against Iraq last Friday.

The Socceroos- opponents on Monday, Thailand, have conceded only one goal at these championships - that being from towering Iraqi striker Younis Mahmoud, whose first half glancing header from a set piece highlighted the distinct lack of aerial strength offered by the home side.

Australia will benefit from a similar advantage on Monday, with none of Thailand-s defensive candidates able to match up height-wise against the Socceroos- tall-timber in John Aloisi and Mark Viduka.

For this aspect alone, Wilkshire-s contribution against Thailand could be a telling one, and the Dutch based 25-year-old is eager to erase the memories of Australia-s indifferent showings so far this tournament and set the Socceroos- course to the quarter finals.

“It-s hard to sum it up right now, we-re very disappointed - shattered would be the word, we-ve got one more game to go, we-ve got to dust ourselves down and start again,” said Wilkshire after Australia-s loss to Iraq.

“We-ve got to pick ourselves up again, there-s no hiding from the fact that these last two games have been very disappointing, thankfully the way the competition has been structured, we still have a possibility of going through from the group.”

Wilkshire and his Socceroo team mates will be heartened by the knowledge that few Asian Cup champions have breezed through Asia-s domestic showpiece previously.

Reigning champions Japan only claimed victories in regulation time in three of their six matches in China in 2004 - a campaign that saw them require extra time or penalties to triumph over unfancied Bahrain and Jordan.

Four years earlier, Saudi Arabia qualified for the final against eventual winners Japan after losing to the Japanese 4-1 in their opening group match, before drawing their second against Qatar 0-0.

Such is the structure of the Asian Cup, Australia can confirm their participation in the final stages by simply recording a win over Thailand, providing a favourable outcome for Iraq in the final Group A match involving the Iraqis and Oman - which is played simultaneous to the Socceroos- fixture at the Rajamangala National Stadium.

Should teams be tied on competition points, the head-to-head record between the teams concerned is used to determine the final group standings, rather than the traditional goal difference method.

Of the many permutations that await the Socceroos following Monday-s matches, the one element that must be achieved for Australia to have any hope of continuing their stay in south east Asia is a win for the green and gold.

That, says Wilkshire, is all that the Socceroos need to concern themselves with.

“This is a great occasion for us and we-ve got to try and grasp it - we-ve got one last shot at it,” said Wilkshire.

“We know how Thailand are going to play, they-re going to play on the break, they-re going to wait for our mistakes and they-re going to punish us and that-s what-s happened so far.”

Australia-s Asian Cup hopes go on the line against co-hosts Thailand this coming Monday, 16 July. Kick off at the Rajamangala Stadium for Australia-s final Group A match is at 10.35pm AEST.

Fox Sports will feature live and exclusive coverage of the match from 10.30pm AEST. Click here for the entire Fox Sports broadcast schedule.