WCQ: Australia v Iraq – Thursday 8:30pm (AEST), Nib Stadium, Perth
The third and final round of World Cup qualifiers begin in Perth as the Socceroos take on Iraq. Australia were dominant in the second round of qualifying netting 29 goals and conceding just 4 en route to 7 wins from 8 games.
Iraq on the other had some real struggles. They finished second behind Thailand in the group and were able to win just one of their three away games. They have now won just 1 of their last 7 away from home and the Socceroos will look to get their campaign off to a winning start.
The match is a huge opportunity for several Socceroos to impress and none more than captain Mile Jedinak. After falling out of favour at Crystal Palace he has decided to make the move to Aston Villa in pursuit of consistent first team football in order to lengthen his international career.
With the trade deadline approaching in Europe it is also a final chance for players to make one last impression. Tom Rogic has become a focal point in the centre of the park for Celtic under Brendan Rodgers while Aaron Mooy has been a star for Huddersfield who are undefeated and top of The Championship after five rounds.
Midfield has become a real strength for the Socceroos and when you add Luongo, Leckie and Kruse to the list you can see why. Coach Ange Postecoglou has also looked to the future with teenager Alex Gersbach a definite star of the future. After being a huge success at Sydney FC he has made his way to Europe and has made the left back role his own at Rosenborg.
The Socceroos have won 9 of their last 10 World Cup qualifiers and are undefeated in their last 15 at home (13 wins, 2 draws). They have scored 51 and conceded just 8 in that run of home games and against a Iraq outfit that under-performs on the road the Socceroos will dominate. The superiority in the centre of the park will be a key factor and one that Iraq will not be able to overcome.