Socceroo veterans desperate for last WC

June 16, 2013
By Angela Habashy

As if facing a must-win encounter in front of more than 80,000 expectant fans wasn't daunting enough.

For many of the Socceroos a victory against Iraq on Tuesday represents their last chance to play in a World Cup.

Australia's most capped player Mark Schwarzer, who would be 41 come next year's showpiece in Brazil, would become the oldest ever player at a World Cup should the Socceroos triumph over the world No.98 Iraqis at ANZ Stadium.

A win would secure Australia second place in their group and an automatic World Cup berth.

Fellow veteran Archie Thompson said after Australia's 4-0 rout of Jordan last week Schwarzer made a point of impressing what one last World Cup experience would mean to the team's stalwarts.

"We spoke about that after we beat Jordan. Schwarzer was the one that spoke and for a lot of the older guys, I don't know about Schwarzer, he may go round again," Thompson joked.

"But for a lot of us this is definitely the last opportunity to be playing in a World Cup.

"So we wanted to enjoy the week, train hard and make sure we don't lose focus."

Along with Schwarzer and Thompson the likes of skipper Lucas Neill, striker Tim Cahill and midfielder Mark Bresciano - who will all be 34 or older come Brazil - are also desperate to qualify for what would be Australia's third consecutive World Cup.

Bresciano said he would love the chance to play on the world's biggest stage with his fellow long-serving teammates again.

"We really would love to play this World Cup together because it's been such a great adventure being part of the Socceroos for so long," he said.

"For me personally and some of the other boys we'd get to play in three World Cups if we get a result on Tuesday so it would be a massive achievement for a lot of us."

Bresciano has been partnered with Melbourne Victory star Mark Milligan in the last two matches against Japan and Jordan to great effect.

Milligan was so impressive in the holding midfield role he kept Mile Jedinak, who had recovered from an ankle injury in time to play against Jordan, on the bench."

"I was unfortunate for Mile... but playing alongside Mark Milligan has been good... it's a combination that can work and has worked," Bresciano said.

Coach Holger Osieck is likely to field the same successful line-up against Iraq, who are at the bottom of the qualifying group and out of contention for a World Cup berth.

Making the task even easier Iraq will be fielding an under-strength side without captain and prolific striker Younis Mahmoud and key playmaker Nashat Akram.

Thompson has called for the sell-out crowd to also play a part.

"We're urging everyone to get out there nice and early, even before the warm-up, just to maybe intimidate the Iraqis just a little bit.".