Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Aussie Boys Are Turkish Delights; Will Socceroos Be First To Qualify For South Africa?

Aussie Boys Are Turkish Delights; Will Socceroos Be First To Qualify For South Africa?
Much has changed since Australia's last friendly international against Turkey, writes's Con Stamacostas.

In 2004 Australia played two games against 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Turkey. In Sydney the Socceroos lost 3-1 and in Melbourne 1-0.

The football landscape is vastly different now.

That was the Frank Farina era and most of the crowd were Turkish supporters. These days the Socceroos play to full houses and enjoy enthusiastic support. And at the moment, Sydney and Australia are buzzing as the country looks towards a history-making second World Cup berth in a row; and potentially the honour - outside the hosts - to be the first country to qualify for South Africa 2010.

Sitting next to Ben Buckley at the FFA (Football Federation Australia) headquarters on Tuesday was Consul-General of the Republic of Turkey Mr Renan Sekeroglu.

Both men were there to announce an annual event that will see football matches played between the two countries in either Turkey or Australia in alternating years, starting with two Under-16 matches to be held next month in Canakkale and Gelibolu (Gallipoli), Turkey.

“Turkish people love football passionately, it’s a national past time for many Turks, and the fact that there are many Australian players in Turkey, including Harry Kewell, is of course another important aspect of the relations in football between our countries,” Sekeroglu said.

“I believe they are doing a very good job; they are also football ambassadors in Turkey.”Kewell, Mile Jedinak, Bruce Djite, James Troisi and Micheal Petkovic are all playing in Turkey this season - the importance of these players cannot be understated to the national team, as has reported in the last couple of days.

Kewell, Jedinak and Petkovic will be joining the Socceroos squad tomorrow and while Djite (now a confirmed late call-up) and Troisi are on the stand by list, they both know they are in Pim Verbeek’s World Cup plans, as exclusively reported.

When asked about how the Turkish public perceives Australian football, Sekeroglu was glowing in his praise.

“Of course the Turkish concept of Australian football was maybe much weaker if you asked me that question two years ago, but now that we have a footballer named Harry Kewell who plays for Galatasaray I think they have a much better idea, not only because of Mr Kewell’s contribution but the other players in the league as well.”

Looking towards next Wednesday's World Cup qualifier, Buckley was asked if a win against Uzbekistan would make up for the Socceroos' unspectacular showings of late.

“Well, if you are talking about some recent performances where we have won three games and draw one and are sitting top of the table, I think that is a pretty good outcome to what you might perceive as some not-pretty-good performances,” the FFA chief executive said.

“We won’t be satisfied until it's mathematically impossible for us not to qualify. That is what we are hoping to achieve and winning next week will be a step in the right direction.

“It doesn’t mean that we will have qualified, it certainly means that we are in a very, very good position to qualify, but I won’t be satisfied, and I know the coaching staff won’t be satisfied, and I know the players won’t be satisfied until it’s mathematically over the line.”

When asked about the responsibility to entertain because of fan disenchantment, Buckley was adamant.

He said, “I think the coaching staff's responsibility is to qualify, and to make sure we participate at the World Cup in 2010.“That is our absolute priority - it’s our only priority, and the style and the tactics is left up to the coaching staff on the day, to achieve that outcome.”

Con Stamacostas,

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