Thursday, June 21, 2007

Australians confident of first-time Asian Cup glory

Australia's national football coach Graham Arnold said anything less than a place in the final of next month's AFC Asian Cup 2007 will be a failure. He also welcomed bookmakers installing the Socceroos as favourites for the trophy in their first participation. "I want favouritism to be a positive, not a negative. I want people to give us the favouritism tag because we deserve it, " he said. "A pass is reaching the semi-finals, but I'll put pressure on myself by saying a failure is not making the final. In the big picture you have to get in the top four in Asia to get into the World Cup in 2010, so it's a good test for us.

"I walk past the trophy cabinet in Football Federation Australia every day and it's empty, so it would be nice to put something in it, he told AAP.

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is equally confident. "There's a high expectation from everyone concerned, and rightly from ourselves as well. If you look at the performance at the World Cup we're rightly No.1 in Asia. But that was 12 months ago and we have to back it up in this sort of competition. It's going to be a difficult competition and conditions are very harsh. But we've got enough quality to win the tournament."

Everton midfielder Tim Cahill's return to the squad from a broken bone in his foot will be delayed until the tournament, Arnold said. "I'm very positive, and really confident that I can come back and produce," Cahill told AFP.

Harry Kewell approves of plans to play him as a central striker, just behind spearhead Mark Viduka to boost Australia's strike power for the tournament. The Liverpool star more regularly plays as a left-sided midfielder, but said he relished the chance for a more central role when the Socceroos start their Asian Cup campaign against Oman in Bangkok on 8 July. "It's one of my favourite positions, I won't deny that, and I'm quite sure a lot of players love that position," he told the Herald Sun. "Once we know our opponents, once we sit down and we study them a little bit more, we'll know the formations to play," he said.

"If I am to play up front or behind or left side that's fantastic. I just want to be playing. I'm 100 per cent fit now and I'm raring to go. "I can't wait (to play for Australia). It's been a long time since the last game which was against Croatia. "I'm really looking forward to meeting up with the boys and getting this tournament off to a good start," he added.

No comments: