January 14, 2015 – 9:40PM
Midfield bulldog Matt McKay believes the Socceroos have a distinct fitness edge on their Asian Cup rivals and can grind teams into the ground as they head towards the business end of the tournament.
The host nation is flying so far, already booking a spot in the quarter-finals by adding a 4-0 walloping of Oman on Tuesday night to their opening 4-1 win over Kuwait last Friday.
McKay was one of four players to find the back of the net and remains hopeful of backing up in Brisbane on Saturday night, when the Socceroos face their biggest test thus far against Korea.
Breakthrough: Matt McKay scores the Socceroos’ opening goal against Oman. Photo: Getty Images
Along with Mark Milligan and Jason Davidson, McKay was one of three new faces to fire against Oman and said the largely seamless interchange of talent was vindicating Ange Postecoglou’s strategy of adding depth to playing stocks.
But it wasn’t just player rotations that were keeping the Socceroos fresh. McKay said they had taken huge strides in fitness, conditioning and recovery, building on improvements made in the area ahead of last year’s World Cup in Brazil.
“We do a lot [see it as an advantage]. Our sports science guys are incredible. Our recovery, our physios and doctors, it’s all stepped up a notch. It stepped up before the World Cup and even more so now,” McKay said.
“They monitor everything, and that’s those little steps that make us a better side come game day. We’re better prepared and everyone is doing the right things.”
McKay felt Oman had little left in the tank by the early stages of the second half on Tuesday night. With their opponents’ legs failing, the Socceroos were able to put them to the sword.
“I think we were fitter than them… after the first 20, even 10 minutes, of the second half they had nothing. They ended up sitting back and didn’t threaten us,” McKay said.
“That’s a good sign for us. We can grind teams into the ground and Korea is our next challenge.”
The fitness credentials of both sides will be given a thorough examination in the Queensland capital, which has been a sauna all week as persistent cloud cover sent humidity levels soaring.
Both Jordan and Iraq felt the pinch in their game in Brisbane on Monday night and with similar conditions predicted for the weekend, the Socceroos could well find themselves with a clear advantage, even with many of their players straight from a European winter.
McKay, who plays for the A-League’s Brisbane Roar, should have no issues with the climate but could yet find himself back out of the side as Postecoglou continues to try and settle on his best XI for the finals.
“I’m always keen to play but it’s ultimately not my decision. Obviously there will be changes. The shorter turnarounds and such,” McKay said.
“I think the boss has been vindicated in how he’s worked hard to get the depth of the squad up. We saw that, guys came in and did a job. If I’m involved it would be great but I just hope we keep winning.”
Source : The Canberra Times