Socceroos captain Lucas Niell with supporters at training. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: Herald Sun
Socceroo Tommy Oar with a girls’ under-12 team at Albert Park. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: Herald Sun
SOCCEROO stars have vowed to use Melbourne as their springboard to next year’s World Cup, painting the town green and gold ahead of their must-win match at Etihad Stadium next week.
Players have implored Victorians to fill the stadium and cheer on their team from all corners of the state as they take on Jordan on Tuesday night in the first of two crucial qualifying matches on home soil.
Melbourne-born Mark Bresciano said it was good to be home but was focused on helping book Australia a ticket to Brazil 2014.
“It’s come to the crunch now, we have to win our last two games,” he said.
“I hope we get a lot of support because we will need it.”
After seeing a crowd of more than 60,000 fans cheer on Japan against the Socceroos on Tuesday, defensive midfielder Mark Milligan echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“It was shown in Japan what playing at home in front of a massive crowd can do,” he said.
“We are very confident coming to Melbourne that everyone is going to turn up in great numbers at Etihad Stadium. It, literally, is an extra leg at times.”
After touching down in Melbourne, Australia’s national team posed for photos with fans then took to the training pitch determined to qualify for its third straight Cup.
Hundreds of Aussie fans flocked to the Lakeside Oval in Albert Park to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
The players signed autographs for half an hour before an open training session.
The biggest cheers came for goal threat Tim Cahill, who must have had a sore wrist by the time he took to the pitch after moving from one side of the stadium to the other for autographs.
The ticket rush for Tuesday night’s match continues with about 30,000 seats already sold, including more than 4000 snapped up on Wednesday in the wake of the team’s brave 1-1 draw with Japan.
Etihad Stadium spokesman Bill Lane said a crowd of 40,000-plus was expected.
Football Federation Australia has requested seating be installed on the wings of the arena, transforming it from an AFL field but reducing capacity.
The Socceroos are guaranteed World Cup entry if they win on Tuesday and again against Iraq in Sydney on June 18.
Herald Sun – 06 June 2013