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May 7, 2013

Japan will fear Socceroos says North

Defender Jade North admits the Socceroos have their back against the wall as they eye a World Cup berth but says it's Asian heavyweights Japan who'll be fearful heading into their key clash next month.

A 12-man Australian-based squad are in training on the Central Coast this week as the Socceroos begin preparations for their crucial match against Japan in Saitama on June 4.

Having drawn 2-2 with Oman in March, Australia are now precariously placed in their qualifying group, sitting in third behind leaders Japan and second-placed Jordan but only ahead of Oman on goal difference.

Only the top two sides gain automatic qualification to next year's showpiece with the third finisher to face further playoffs.

But North, who spent two years playing in Japan's top-flight with FC Tokyo and Consadole Sapporo before joining Brisbane, says world No.29 Japan still fear the Socceroos.

"We have our backs to the wall now," North told AAP on Tuesday.

"But that Aussie spirit is something that we've grabbed when we've needed it and I think now we really need it.

"People will say: 'Japan are a strong side, they're leading the group' but I think they fear us more than the other way around.

"I played there and I know their mentality and I know they don't like the physicality of the Aussie style of play and that team spirit we have.

"I'm confident we can do a job in Japan."

Much has been made of Socceroos coach Holger Osieck's team selection for the Oman match.

One was that North, with 39 caps to his name, sat on the bench while Michael Thwaite and Robert Cornthwaite formed an untried central defence in suspended skipper Lucas Neill's absence.

It was a decision Osieck later admitted may have been a mistake.

Neill will be back for the Japan game and North, who has partnered with the captain before, says he's ready to do the job.

"Looking back at the (Oman) game, I'm sure Holger has his eye on a few players and has a few ideas of what he'll do next time," North said.

"But he keeps his cards pretty close to his chest.

"If the boss plays me then that's great. I know I can do the job, I've done it before so fingers crossed."

The camp, which concludes on Friday, is being held in conjunction with one for the Young Socceroos who are preparing for the FIFA under-20 World Cup in Turkey next month.

Much to Central Coast coach Graham Arnold's delight the 12-man squad will face A-League champions the Mariners later in the week in a game to be played behind closed doors.

Arnold suggested the game in an effort to keep his charges match-fit ahead of their Asian Champions League match against Guangzhou Evergrande next week.

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