There is the potential for Australia to be ambushed on their own soil as they take on Iraq at nib Stadium on Thursday against opponents who have spent a lot of time together recently, either in the senior Iraq side or with the mostly under-23s Iraq side that competed at the Rio Olympics.
While the Aussies began arriving in Perth on Sunday and were still coming in late on Monday night, the Iraqis were already here last week and played a 2-2 draw in a trial game against A-League side Perth Glory behind closed doors on Thursday.
Before that, the Iraq Olympic side narrowly failed to advance from a tough group stage in Rio. They played 0-0 draws against both Denmark and eventual tournament winners Brazil and a 1-1 draw with South Africa, but despite being unbeaten the three points weren’t enough.
The 24-man Iraq squad that was named for their WC qualifiers against Australia and Saudi Arabia contain a number of players from their Olympic side, including goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed, defenders Ahmad Ibrahim, Ali Adnan and Dhurgham Ismail, midfielders Saad Abdul-Amir, Mahdi Kamel and Ali Hosni and forward Mohannad Abdul-Raheem.
Australia have been forced to come together quickly for games out of necessity over the years, particularly when midweek games are played at home and players are making long-haul flights after playing weekend games for their clubs in Europe.
It is no different this week and McGowan said it was simply time for the players to meet that challenge again.
“Yeah, it’s been well documented a lot of our players have only come in a few days before the game, whereas the majority of the Iraqis have been together for six or seven weeks overall and were out here before us.” McGowan told The World Game.
“So it brings its own challenges for us, but we’re used to that and it’s definitely not an excuse come Thursday night.
“This is generally what happens when you play for Australia and you’re at an overseas club. If you’re in Europe you have a game on Saturday or Sunday and then you need to add on the time difference and then it’s a 24-hour flight before you get here.
“We’ve all done it before and it definitely won’t be a case of it catching us cold or something like that. It’s not like it’s something we haven’t experienced before in our campaigns, whether it be playing qualifiers or friendlies.
“As a full group we tend to have only one or two training sessions before a game like this one against Iraq.
“A few players who were among the later arrivals take the first session more low-key than other players and then on the Wednesday in a week like this everyone’s involved and it’s all systems go for the game on Thursday night.”
McGowan said now the Socceroos had moved through to this critically important section of World Cup qualifiers that excitement was building within the team.
“This is the nitty-gritty part that over the last two years we’ve been building up to.” he said.
“It’s great that we’ve got the first game at home against a very good Iraq team. We’re going to need to be at the top of our game to get a result, but it’s one we’re going all-out to get so we can go into next week’s game against the UAE full of confidence.
“I’m sure the boss will have a lot of information for us about how Iraq play. No stone will be left unturned when it comes to working out how we should play or what weaknesses we might be able to attack to hopefully get a win in the end.”
Right-back McGowan said Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was typically not letting anyone feel they could be comfortable about their spot in the team.
“I’ve done it a lot of times, try to guess what he’s thinking in terms of the line-up, but it’s pretty hard,” he said.
“I’m just happy to be in the squad and be involved and if I play one minute or 90 minutes, or play one game or both games, the most important thing is that we get the right results and get off to a great start in these qualifiers.”