• Kuwait coach Andres Carrasco. (Western Sydney Wanderers)Source: Western Sydney Wanderers
Kuwait coach Andres Carrasco, who was on the coaching staff of Western Sydney Wanderers four years ago, said he knew enough about Australia's football culture to expect a barrage in the opening phase of the forthcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier.
By
Philip Micallef

Source:
SBS The World Game
26 May 2021 - 8:57 AM  UPDATED 26 May 2021 - 8:57 AM

The two teams meet in Kuwait City on June 4 (AEST) in their first match of a hub to complete qualifying Group B that also features Nepal, Chinese Taipei and Jordan.

The Australians have maximum points from four matches and are favoured to win the section. They lead the Kuwaitis and Jordanians by two points and have a game in hand.

Carrasco spent two seasons as assistant to head coach Tony Popovic from 2015 to 2017 and has drawn on that experience in a bid to shock the Socceroos.

"I guess we will have to deal with very strong first minutes from Arnold's team," Carrasco said from Dubai where his team is making the final preparations for the hub on home soil.

"I hope their attacking intensity slows down later on due to the heat and this is a factor that should be on our side. Usually Australia dominate their matches from the quick and smooth possession with players in between lines and are also strong in set pieces.

"We need to be at our best to be able to have a say in the ball possession stakes and take our chances from there.

"I had a lovely time at the Wanderers. I met some very nice people who lived football in a very special way. I worked with Popa who is the best Australian coach. I learned how Australia lives football and the players' mentality, so I can predict that it's going to be a tough game.

"Australia are one of the best teams in Asia, with great professional players that play in big leagues. We see the match as one more chance to earn experience and an opportunity for our young team to earn credit in front of our fans. We are looking forward to this match and see where we are."

The Australians have not kicked a ball in anger since they beat Jordan 1-0 in Amman in their last qualifier in November 2019.

The Kuwaitis have been far more active, particularly since Carrasco took over last November.

Kuwait played five times - they thrashed Malaysia 4-1 in Dubai at the weekend - but Carrasco said he would not read too much into this imbalance in both sides' preparations.

"Obviously, there's a difference but I don't think we can say it may give us an advantage," he said.

"When you see the Aussie squad list, I don't think any football person would say we could have an advantage. Most teams have been struggling. Our plans have been adjusted many times, our league was stopped a couple of times and some of our main players are still with their clubs. But as a coach I would never make this an excuse.

"COVID-19 changed everything. We played five matches but had a very little training. Our team is very young and we are in the process of building for the next decade ... this is our main focus."

Australia comfortably beat Kuwait 3-0 in their first group match in Kuwait City in September 2019 and Carrasco said he and his players were determined to get something from the game so as to keep their campaign to reach the final phase on the right track and put a smile back on their fans' faces.

"Sure, when we review the match it hurts to see the fans' disappointment but we all need to understand that Kuwaiti football stopped for two years due to a FIFA ban (for government interference in the sport) and this affected our football from its foundation," he said.

"We are now trying to get our game back to where it belongs. Kuwait has a great football history and now it's all about growing and improving day by day.

"We have a real chance of qualifying. We won't hide ... we want to get through so we won't sell the points cheaply against Australia. Second spot doesn't guarantee a spot in the next round as only the best runners-up go through. So points and goal difference could make a difference. I would love to get to a point where Australia has something to play for in the last match versus Jordan."