SYDNEY, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Australia's new head coach Pim Verbeek fears the Socceroos may have to do without captain Mark Viduka and other European-based players when they begin their World Cup qualifiers next year.
Verbeek said he hoped to have all his best players available when Australia open their qualifying campaign against Qatar in Melbourne on Feb. 6 but expected there would be high-profile absentees.
The Dutchman, appointed to the job last week, said most of the top players had already pledged their commitment to the opening game but Viduka was still undecided, even though Verbeek wanted the Newcastle striker to be involved in the campaign in some capacity.
'He says he is struggling a little bit from the last Asian Cup,' Verbeek told a news conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
'He is the only one still considering what he is going to do February 6.
'If he can be part of that -- maybe not all 14 games -- then I am thinking of taking him. He is a very dangerous striker and I will try to convince him it is necessary.'
Australia's top players are mostly based in Europe and have often found themselves caught in a tug-of-war between the Australian federation and their European paymasters.
Clubs have been reluctant to allow the players to return home during the season, sparking a series of bitter rows with Australia.
Verbeek said he was resigned to losing some European-based players during stages of the qualifying phase and was planning to fill their places with players from the Australian A-League.
He admitted he knew little about the fledgling competition but was planning to spend the next few weeks in Australia watching A-League teams to assess the talent before deciding on the makeup of his team to play Qatar.
'In the next few weeks I will decide whether to go with them (overseas players), whether to go with a combination, or whether to just use A-League players,' Verbeek said.
'This match will be absolutely crucial and it is very important that the team gets off to a positive start ahead of a long and challenging campaign.'
Australia is drawn in a tough World Cup qualifying group along with Qatar, China and Iraq with only the top two teams advancing to the final round of qualifying.