MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Under-pressure Australia have no qualms about taking the long road to Russia and stand ready to end Syria’s fairytale in the Asian World Cup playoff, according to Socceroos midfielder James Troisi.
The Melbourne Victory playmaker will join his Australia team mates in the unlikely destination of Malacca, Malaysia next week for the first clash of the two-leg series.
The plucky Syrians, forced to host their qualifiers away from the war-torn Middle Eastern nation due to security concerns, will be the sentimental favourites as they battle to overcome Ange Postecoglou’s side and continue their bid for a maiden World Cup appearance.
Australia’s failure to grab a direct ticket to their fourth successive World Cup has raised alarm bells at home but Troisi was confident the Asian Cup champions could produce the right performance at Hang Jebat Stadium.
“All credit to (Syria). They are in the position they are,” 29-year-old Troisi told Reuters on Friday at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, the Victory’s training base.
”They have an opportunity, just like us. In saying that, we want to go to the World Cup and we’ve got a bit of work to do. We won’t underestimate them.
”We’re in this position because we couldn’t get the job done for whatever reason and we left it in someone else’s hands which is not always a good thing, it didn’t work out.
“So now we’ve got a bit of a longer road but we’re pretty together and like I said, we know what we have to do. I’m quietly confident that we’ll get the job done.”
Australia host Syria in the second leg at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on Oct. 10., with the overall winner to play the fourth placed team in North and Central American qualifying in November in another two-leg playoff for a berth in next year’s 32-team tournament in Russia.
The Socceroos lost only one match in the final phase of Asian qualifying but struggled to finish off opponents under Postecoglou’s new 3-2-4-1 formation.
Despite having an astonishing 45 shots in the final home qualifier against Thailand, they laboured to a 2-1 win and were condemned to the treacherous playoffs route after Saudi Arabia beat group winners Japan to qualify on goal difference.
With the Socceroos having proved vulnerable on the counter-attack, former players and pundits have criticised Postecoglou’s steadfast adherence to a riskier attacking game.
Troisi, however, said it was up to the players to make it work.
“I think it’s always been about what we do, though. If we’re playing the right way, doing the right things, then it’s very difficult to beat us and to come up against us,” said Troisi, who has scored five goals in his 34 internationals.
”We’ve shown (the formation) works. As long as we do it the right way, structurally stay together, then, like I said, we’ve shown it works.
”Everyone knows Ange, and I don’t think we’ll change the style or the formation.
“We want to play, he wants to get us to a World Cup in a certain way and change the perception of Australian football and footballers. And I totally agree with him and things need to change in this country.”
Australia head to Malaysia without captain Mile Jedinak but with Europe-based forwards Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse in goal-scoring form at club level.
The fleet-footed Troisi also has an eye for a goal, and famously scored the winner in the 2015 Asian Cup final against South Korea that gave Postecoglou’s side their first continental title on home soil.
Any heroics against Syria will play out in front of a much sparser crowd in Malacca.
“These conditions and places we have to go are very different for us,” said Troisi.
”But like I said, we’ve got to look at the bigger picture ... And these games are going to get us to qualify for a World Cup.
“So it doesn’t matter if there’s 50,000 or 500 people in the stands, we’ll approach the game the same way.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford