Australia maturing as travelers on road to Russia

Mark Milligan controls the ball during a Socceroos training session in Thailand.
Versatile Mark Milligan credits an increased maturity in the Caltex Socceroos for their excellent performances away from home during FIFA World Cup qualifying for Russia 2018.

Ange Postecoglou’s side is unbeaten on their travels so far in this phase of qualifying, with a win in the UAE followed by a well-deserved draw in Saudi Arabia.

 

Now they face another tricky away test on Tuesday night, with a crucial clash against Thailand in Bangkok.

“Saudi and UAE are not easy places to go and they are improving as footballing nations as well.

“They are doing a lot of work, they have goals and ambitions and they want to go to a World Cup,” Milligan told FFA TV.

“It says a lot about this group, it says a lot about the attitude we travel with and the way we go into games.

“I don’t think we’ve gone into a game looking to take anything but three points and I think that positive attitude is showing. It isn’t easy but we’re definitely gelling as a group and becoming stronger as a team.

“Ultimately that’s our goal, we don’t just want to qualify, we want to make sure we do it the right way, we do it our way and there’s possibilities going forward as well.”

The entire squad has now arrived in camp and have almost a full week to prepare for the clash at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Milligan feels the long camp and build-up will be hugely beneficial for the squad in being able to work on more specific aspects of their game.

Thailand has proved tough opposition for Australia in the past. It took second half goals from Josh Kennedy and Alex Brosque to grind out a 2-1 win in Brisbane in 2011 in the previous qualifying cycle.

And it was Brett Holman’s late strike which gave the green and gold a tight 1-0 win in Bangkok a few months later.

“They [Thailand] showed last time we played in Brisbane and away that they are improving and they are tough,” Milligan said.

“They work extremely hard for each other and I don’t think that will be any different this time. They play some good football and although their results haven’t shown it, they have given everyone they have played a good game and a tough match.

“It’s very important for us as it always is, whether it’s away or home, to play the way we want to play and we know if we do that we’re very difficult to beat and we’re a good chance for three points.”

Milligan also played in Thailand against the host nation in group stage of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup.

The Caltex Socceroos scored three late goals on that occasion to win 4-0, and Milligan recalls how hard the side had to fight for that result as well.

“It was extremely difficult. We weren’t in a good situation at all coming off two poor results and we needed a win to go through to the next round,” the 31-year-old said.

“There was a lot of pressure. We’d had a couple of injuries and a send-off as well so we had players missing.

“It was the first time I had the chance to start in a major tournament with the Socceroos so it was a very exciting time for myself as well.”

Football Federation Australia

 

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