Australia vs. New Zealand
Date: Monday 24th May.
Venue: MCG Stadium, Melbourne, Australia
Mark Schwarzer, the Australian shot stopper, is so far the only injury worry ahead of Monday nights clash with the All Whites. Schwarzer strained his thumb during training on Thursday afternoon, possibly opening the door for Reading keeper Adam Federici to receive his first ever international cap for the Socceroos. However Schwarzer may have some company on the treatment table come Tuesday morning, that is if Rory Fallon‘s prediction is anything to go by.
The Plymouth and All Whites Striker was keen to reignite the fierce rivalry by claiming the encounter at the MCG ground will be a friendly in name only:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few injuries. I don’t think anyone’s going to hold back against them.”
Fallon‘s comments were dismissed as mere enthusiasm by Coach Ricki Herbert, a sentiment that was not shared by their opponents across the Tasman. Resident Socceroo hardman Vince Grella said that he was “disappointed” by Fallon’s comments:
“For him even to be thinking about things like that is very unprofessional.”
Fallon’s insight will only fuel what is already an intense rivalry between the two nations, with this friendly almost being as hotly anticipated as the World Cup itself here in the south pacific, and All Whites Coach Ricki Herbert is keen to utilise the game for more than just exhibition purposes. Keeping his cards close to his chest, Herbert is not going to confirm his squad until late sunday night, insisting that he is still mulling over his defensive options as well as “one or two” striking changes. However, it is widely expected that his team will be the same 3-5-2 which beat Bahrain back in November, with the exception of the two defenders flanking captain Ryan Nelsen, who are expected to be rotated for fresher faces.
Both the defenders Ivan Vicelich and Ben Sigmund may have to settle for a place on the bench as Herbert looks at all his options before their tournament starts on June 15th against Slovakia. Winston Reid and Tommy Smith‘s European pedigree possibly being preferred over their New Zealand based colleagues. Herberts selection at the back though will have to be perfect if he is to have any hope of a decent result against the Socceroos, who’s line up includes the attacking flair of Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, and then even beyond that in South Africa with the likes of Paraguay and Italy lying in wait. So if Herbert is indeed going to stick with three at the back for the foreseeable future, then it will need to be a case of sooner rather than later with regards to picking his favoured backline, with the tournament of a life time arriving in a little under three weeks time.
‘Socceroos vs. All Whites’ History:
- This will be the first time that both teams have featured in the same World Cup, However most would agree that the possibility of them meeting at the tournament are slim to none.
- The last meeting between the two sides was 5 years ago back in 2005. The game was played on English soil at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, and it ended 1-0 to the Socceroos.
- The teams have met 62 times in total, Australia winning 38, while the All Whites have some catching up to do with 13 victories.
- The last NZ victory came in 2002, with now captain Ryan Nelsen scoring the only goal.