Graham Arnold has made just one change to the starting line-up as the Socceroos gear up for their must-win clash against Tunisia.
Fran Karacic replaces the injured Nathaniel Atkinson at right-back, but star midfielder Ajdin Hrustic misses out.
Speaking on SBS, Socceroos legend Harry Kewell lamented the fact the midfielder was left on the bench.
“I am disappointed,” Kewell said.
“I could understand the first game, not playing. I’m sure there are a lot of players out there are not playing at 100 percent.
“I don’t know the extent of the injury, but when you come into a game 30 minutes from the end, you have got to catch up, sometimes it gets away from you.
“I would have liked to have seen him start, to see how long he could have played. Hrustic can play, he has the ability to find space, he has got great vision and a great shot.
“I think that is something that we need.”
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The Aussies face an incredibly hostile atmosphere given the significant amount of Tunisian expats that call Doha home and already copped plenty of boos when they came out for the warm-ups.
And Arnold implored his troops to “suck it in” once the first whistle blows.
It will be great, exciting afternoon for the boys,” Arnold told SBS.
“It will be an electric atmosphere, unique occasion.”
Australia needs at least a draw in tonight’s (kickoff 9pm AEDT) to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout stage for just the second time.
One of Arnold’s selection headaches is whether to stick with Mitch Duke up front, or consider starting in-form Jamie Maclaren with Australia needing goals.
Socceroos Line-Up: Mat Ryan (c); Fran Karacic, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Aziz Behich; Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Riley McGree; Mat Leckie, Mitchell Duke, Craig Goodwin
Tunisia Line-Up: Aymen Dahmen; Montassar Talbi, Yassine Meriah, Dylan Bronn, Mohamed Drager, Ali Abdi; Aissa Laidouni, Ellyes Skhiri; Naim Sliti, Issam Jebali, Youssed Msakni (c)
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SOCCEROOS PATH TO ROUND OF 16 REVEALED
The grim reality facing Graham Arnold’s men is that defeat tonight would end their World Cup hopes with a group stage match to spare.
Should the Socceroos lose, they will be eliminated regardless of the result between the match between France and Denmark (3am AEDT).
The Socceroos’ hopes of reaching the round of 16 would remain alive – only just – with a draw against Tunisia.
A DRAW AND A WIN
In that case, the Socceroos would need to beat World No.10 Denmark in their final match to have any chance of progressing.
If France beat Denmark tomorrow morning then defeat Tunisia in those two nations’ final group encounter:
– France would finish on nine points (three wins), Australia would tally four points (one point for drawing with Tunisia and three points for beating Denmark), while Tunisia would have two points from two draws, and Denmark just the one point for its opening-match draw with Tunisia.
If Australia draw tonight, and Denmark draws with France in the early morning:
– France would be on four points, Denmark and Tunisia on two points, and Australia on one point ahead of the final group match-day.
– Australia could progress with victory over Denmark in the final match, if other results went our way.
In that scenario, if France then beat Tunisia in their final match, then France would therefore have seven points, Australia four, and Denmark and Tunisia two.
But if Tunisia beat France the African nation would be on seven points, France and Australia level on four points, and Denmark on two.
It then comes down to goal difference as the first tie-breaker – meaning the Socceroos would have to beat Denmark by a big margin in the end, or hope Tunisia can crush the French in a big way.
Currently, France’s goal difference is +3 (thanks to beating Australia 4-1.) The Socceroos’ goal difference is -3 (from the same game). The Socceroos would therefore need a six or seven goal turnaround. It’s extremely unlikely.
Therefore, the Socceroos’ best chance is to win tonight.
A WIN… AND IT COMES DOWN TO THE WIRE
If the Socceroos win tonight, they put themselves in a much stronger position to qualify – but it would come down to the final match, with defeat in that match fatal to our chances.
The Socceroos would still require a draw or a win in the final match to progress.
Lose tonight and we’re out.
Draw and we’re alive, but would need to win against Denmark (and depend on other results).
Win and we’re in a strong position, with another win in the final match guaranteeing us a place in the round of 16, and a draw in the final match possible to see us through.