'Two of the biggest games Australia has ever played': Socceroos ready for Argentina challenge
The Socceroos are confident they have the squad and the plan to defeat Diego Maradona and Argentina over two play-off legs to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 1994.
Socceroos midfielder Robbie Slater understands the importance of the match for his country as a win for Australia could help change the conception of Australian football at home and abroad.
“They will be two of the biggest games that Australia has ever played,” Slater said.
Slater is not worried that the media’s attention is largely focused on Maradona and Argentina as he believes this gives Australia a chance to write its own narrative.
“They’re talking mostly about Argentina and what a disaster it could become for the South American giant if it misses out on the World Cup,” Slater said.
Australian coach Eddie Thomson agreed with Slater’s comments as the attention on Argentina will allow his men to fly under the radar.
“It’s good to have him (Maradona) as the centre of attention because it gives us a chance to get on with our training, but like Argentina… we have to win," said Thomson.
"We can’t go away and hope to beat Argentina in their home - we need a result to defend."
Thomson knows the capabilities of the returning Diego Maradona and is confident his men can curtail his influence.
“Diego can kill a team on his own so we have to work out what to do with him,” he said.
“I’ll be keeping my options open, but first of all I have to find out what position Maradona will take."
Socceroos’ defender Ned Zelic believes Australia will control possession against Argentina and not allow Maradona to create chances, while Paul Wade has been touted as a player who could also man mark Maradona throughout the match.
“Maradona is a good player, but we shouldn’t concentrate on him solely. Our own build up has been based on teamwork and we should be setting the pace,” said Zelic.
Graham Arnold, who was the stand in Australian captain against Canada, believes the Socceroos’ system will enable them to have a score to defend in Argentina.
“We have to go after them and get a positive result in Sydney," said Arnold.
"If we can reproduce the form of our first half display against Canada here, we’re well in the match.”
“The whole world is watching this game and expects Argentina to win. We may not match them as individuals… but as a team we have determination and commitment. I don’t think they should underestimate Australia."
Australian striker Aurelio Vidmar is excited at the possibility of knocking Argentina out of contention for the FIFA World Cup.
“I believe we have the quality to get a result here and it will be the biggest sensation ever if Australia can stop Argentina from making the World Cup finals,” Vidmar said.
Despite both team’s personnel changing drastically from their clash 14 months earlier, Argentina coach Alfio Basile is confident he knows the Australian style of football after their 2-0 win.
“They have good players in Europe and we have some knowledge of their style from the match we played last year, but a draw will be no good to us,” he said.
“I have said many times it is a team that applies pressure very well and tightens the game from the outside.”
“And they are dangerous in the box because they have good players in the air. In short that’s what Australia’s is about."
Manager: Eddie Thomson
Mark Bosnich (GK), Tony Vidmar, Ned Zelic, Robbie Slater, Graham Arnold, Mehmet Durakovic, Milan Ivanovic, Alex Tobin, Jason Van Blerk, Aurelio Vidmar, Paul Wade (C), David Mitchell
Manager: Alfio Basile
Sergio Goycochea (GK), Jorge Borelli, Jose Chamot, Carlos Adona, Javier MacAlliater, Sergio Vazquez, Jose Basualdo, Diego Maradona, Hugo Perez, Fernando Redondo, Abel Balbo, Gabriel Batistuta, Gustavo Zapata, Fernando Caceres