Luongo tips Socceroos World Cup shake up

Midfielder Massimo Luongo believes Australia will use their FIFA World Cup qualifying group to spark an eye-catching campaign at Russia 2018.

Luongo


The Queens Park Rangers midfielder views this week’s draw, which pitted Australia against old foes Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Thailand, as more a group of opportunity than a group of death.

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And he is confident the Socceroos, riding the wave of thumping wins of Tajikistan and Jordan, will bring their A-game to the Group B clashes, which start at home against Iraq on 1 September.

“Yes, it’s a tough group but I don't think (coach) Ange (Postecoglou) would want it any other way because we have our sights set on competing with and beating the bigger teams at the World Cup.

"And to do that we have to prove ourselves against the better teams in Asia first. It's a great test for us.

“It’s nice when you play friendlies when there’s no pressure … but the qualifiers are what really count.

"As a nation we have dealt well with the pressure overall compared with the other teams we've faced so far.

“You’d expect ourselves and Japan to be vying for the top spot, but you never know.

"Japan lost to UAE at the Asian Cup, and they can be a threat in any game. Even Iraq have some good players ... it will depend what they bring on the day of the game.

"I made my full debut against Saudi Arabia and they have their own qualities and are quite unpredictable. With these types of teams it’s about whether or not they turn up on the day. If they do they can cause a lot of problems."

But Luongo, who scored in both the 7-0 slaying of Tajikistan and the 5-1 battering of Jordan, is convinced Australia will be more than ready for what lies ahead.

"Whoever we play, we know we have that high intensity pressing game and also the ability to control possession," he said.

"We have huge competition for spots right now … you have to be right on it in every match.

"It keeps everybody on their toes … the confidence is there that whoever plays we will bring out the same out results.

"Even in training when we play 11 v 11, the team that might not be starting is hard enough to play against let alone the opposition we have to face.

"Just look at the kept back position … we have gone from having just Jason Davidson and struggling a bit for back up to having James Meredith, who came in and was unbelievable for us.

"Now the boss has given Brad Smith a go and he has earned his shot and shown he is just as capable of starting every game.

"If you are not at the top of your game for your club and then get left out that is probably a bit of a wake-up call saying there are other players why can and will come in and fill your spot. That can only be a good thing."

London-based Luongo is, meanwhile, savouring the prospect of measuring his talents against former Tottenham Under-21's teammate Harry Kane and the rest of England's star-laden squad when the nations meet at Sunderland's Stadium of Light on 27 May.

"I think I am going to enjoy it a lot more that some of the other friendly games … we all remember what happened in 2003 when we beat them 3-1. I feel we can upset them again, why not?" he said.

"Whoever we play, we show them a bit of respect but we don’t back down and get beaten before the whistle goes.

“Obviously, England are a good team and have players at the highest level but there’s something about the Socceroos that squashes that. It's going to be a big chance for us to get some bragging rights."


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4 min read
Published 15 April 2016 at 1:11pm
By Dave Lewis
Source: SBS