Assistant coach Rene Meulensteen says the Caltex Socceroos have an ‘obligation to entertain’ the Canberra fans in tonight’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Nepal.
In an exclusive match-day interview with socceroos.com.au, Graham Arnold’s right-hand man also opened up on the fitness of skipper Mark Milligan and Harry Souttar’s impending debut.
A crowd of at least 20,000 fans is expected at GIO Stadium tonight as the Caltex Socceroos chase a second win on the road to Qatar.
“That support is important for the players to drive them on,” Meulensteen said.
“The most important thing is to win the game and get the three points but more than anything is the quality of the game.
“We feel we have an obligation to entertain the crowd that will come to the game tonight.”
He added: “The pitch is in really good condition. We need to just make sure we keep it wet so we keep a good zip about it.
“I expect that we can see some really good attacking quality football tonight in these great conditions.”
Milligan to lead by example
Injury forced Milligan to withdraw from the squad that beat Kuwait last month but the veteran skipper is back to face the 166th-ranked Nepalese.
While Australia will be strong favourites to secure a big win, Meulensteen believes Milligan’s presence on the pitch will be crucial.
“His leadership is fantastic and that’s important tonight,” he said.
“It’s making sure we are on top of our game and Millsy’s leadership in the midfield is important to make sure we continuously produce that quality that we need.”
Souttar’s special debut
Arnold confirmed at Wednesday’s pre-match press conference that 20-year-old defender Harry Souttar would make his senior international debut tonight.
Meulensteen said: “He (Souttar) has been ever so good when he has come in. The first time we spent time with him was the camp with the [Australian U23’s in March].
“He quickly made his mark so we brought him into the set-up of the Socceroos and he’s done fantastically well.
“What a great occasion for him to make his debut here in Canberra against Nepal.”