Socceroos start preparing for Japan
The Socceroos have commenced preparations for next month's crucial World Cup qualifier against Asian heavyweights Japan as they attempt to rebound from their poor showing against Oman.
Twelve Australian-based players, including Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill, were on Monday assembling in Gosford for a five-day training camp ahead of the June 4 clash in Saitama, Japan.
Central Coast stars Trent Sainsbury and Mitchell Duke along with Western Sydney midfielder Aaron Mooy and Newcastle youngster Craig Goodwin all earned spots in the camp as Socceroos coach Holger Osieck looks to take advantage of the A-League off-season to assess their standard and keep Socceroos regulars like Mark Milligan and Jade North fit.
The camp will also be crucial for the currently uncontracted Neill, who on Sunday returned to Sydney from a brief trip to the United Arab Emirates to visit his family after reportedly being ordered back by Osieck.
Neill, whose short spell with Sydney FC has expired, is eager to find a new deal in the Middle East where he spent the bulk of the past two seasons with Al Wasl.
The 12-man squad are set to possibly face A-League champions the Mariners this week in a game to be played behind closed doors.
The camp will also be held in conjunction with a Young Socceroos training camp, the junior team currently preparing for the FIFA under-20 World Cup in Turkey next month.
The Socceroos' 2-2 draw with 105th-ranked Oman in Sydney in March coupled with Jordan's shock 2-1 win over group leaders Japan, left Australia in a precarious position with three qualifiers remaining.
The win meant Jordan leapfrogged the Socceroos into second spot in their group, leaving Australia just hanging onto third and only ahead of Oman on goal difference.
Only the top two sides secure automatic qualification to next year's showpiece in Brazil with the third facing further playoffs.
Australia would like to get a point out of what looms as a tough trip to Japan but subsequent home victories over Iraq and Jordan would likely be enough to earn them a top-two berth regardless of the Saitama result.