Australia threaten to walk off in Montevideo

October 18, 2005

SYDNEY, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Australia are threatening to walk off the pitch in next month's World Cup playoff in Uruguay if there is a repeat of the crowd trouble that marred their previous visit four years ago.

Australia's players hired armed security guards to protect them after they were jostled and spat at on their last trip to South America which resulted in a 3-0 defeat.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief executive John O'Neill said the Australian players would be better prepared this time but would not hesitate to walk off if there was any crowd trouble.

'I've seen it before, that a team can always come off the field,' O'Neill said on Tuesday.

'I was at the Rugby World Cup final in 1999 when the French resorted to eye gouging and (Australian captain) John Eales told the referee that if this continues I'm taking my team off the field.

'If you've got a high quality referee, good line judges and the match is conducted according to the rules of FIFA you shouldn't get down to that.

'Equally, we will not be shrinking violets.'

Defeat last time meant the Australians missed out on a place in the 2002 World Cup finals having won the home leg 1-0.

O'Neill called on FIFA to ensure there was no repeat of the crowd problems.

'They have to ensure that the spirit of fair play, and that's the banner under which FIFA runs itself, is absolutely adhered to.

'We need to make sure that FIFA, under whose auspices this game is being run, have taken all the measures to ensure there is no repetition of what happened four years ago.'

Australia play Uruguay in Montevideo on November 12 in the first leg of their World Cup playoff. The return match will be held in Sydney four days later.