Kewell could play if 100% fit: Pim

February 2, 2009
By Steve Jancetic

Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek will give oft-injured star Harry Kewell one last chance to prove his fitness before naming his final squad for next week's World Cup qualifier against Japan.

Kewell was a notable absentee from Verbeek's 22-man squad announced in Sydney on Tuesday, the returning Vince Grella joining the likes of Tim Cahill, Jason Culina and Lucas Neill in an impressive line-up for the Yokohama clash on February 11.

But Verbeek admitted the door was still open for Kewell to force his way into the final 18 for a game which could go a long way towards ensuring Australia's passage to the World Cup finals.

Kewell hasn't played for Turkish club Galatasaray since undergoing a hernia operation last year, but is in line to make a return this weekend.

"What Harry told me is that if there's a chance he will play the weekend, that I can always call him," Verbeek said.

"But (first) he has to play on the weekend and then I can make up my mind.

"I don't take risks with players. For me it's important they are ready and fit ... and I have to be 100 per cent sure they can play 90 minutes.

"I can't start players that I know already that I have to take them out - games like this I cannot take that risk."

Another touch and go contender is veteran midfielder Scott Chipperfield, his season and a potential switch to the German Bundesliga dogged by a persistent foot injury.

Verbeek has sent team physio Phil Coles to Basel to check on Chipperfield's fitness, with Australia in need of all the midfield it can get its hands on following the news Blackburn star Brett Emerton would miss the remainder of the qualifying campaign with a knee injury suffered at the weekend.

"The climate at the moment is not helping us because it is very cold and there is a lot of snow in Basel," Verbeek said of Chipperfield's situation.

"So at the moment there are no training sessions at all - but that's the reason why we sent Phil to Europe, to check and to find out what's possible."

Verbeek, who will be in Tokyo for Japan's warm-up match against Finland on Wednesday, refused to divulge too much about the likely make-up of his run-on side, particularly given the fact many will be involved in club matches this weekend.

Five squad members - Neill, Bresciano, Mile Jedinak, Michael Petkovic and Carl Valeri - are not due to arrive in Yokohama until Tuesday morning.

Verbeek said he had read little into Japan's Asian Cup qualifying loss to Bahrain last week, comparing it to Australia's 0-0 draw with Indonesia with a side consisting entirely of A-League players.

"They lost in Bahrain but that says nothing - we played 0-0 in Indonesia and that says nothing because we played different players," Verbeek said.

"(Japan) have five other players from Europe, that's half the team - that can make the difference."

The only A-League player to make the cut this time around is Craig Moore, the veteran Queensland defender facing a hectic schedule with the Roar's two-leg semi-final against Central Coast.