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Jun 14, 2013

Iraq stars pull out of Aust WC qualifier

The Socceroos' chances of securing a World Cup berth have received a huge boost with Iraq's two star players pulling out of Australia's final qualifying match on Tuesday.

Australia face Iraq at ANZ Stadium with the world No.98 team, who are at the bottom of the qualifying group and out of contention, widely expected to field an understrength side.

Suspicions were confirmed on Friday when captain Younis Mahmoud and midfield maestro Nashat Akram were reported to have not travelled with the squad who arrived in Sydney late on Thursday.

They informed the Iraq Football Association (IFA) of their decision not to travel with the squad after their 1-0 loss to Japan in Doha on Tuesday, The World Game website reported.

Mahmoud, who is one of Iraq's most prolific strikers having netted 47 goals in 115 internationals, guided his country to Asian Cup glory in 2007, the same year he was named runner-up for the Asian Footballer of the Year.

Akram is the side's key playmaker whose exceptional vision and passing ability has also seen him earn 115 national call-ups.

Their withdrawal is a massive boon for the Socceroos who must win on Tuesday night to ensure they claim second place in the group and an automatic spot in next year's World Cup in Brazil.

But Robbie Kruse, who set up two goals and scored one of his own during his man-of-the-match performance in Australia's 4-0 rout of Jordan on Tuesday, says the Socceroos won't underestimate their opponents.

"That's probably what we've spoken about the most, making sure no-one gets carried away and that we're all mentally focussed," Kruse told AAP on Friday.

"People may think it's going to be an easier game but it's not.

"Iraq will still have some dangerous players and they'll come here with no pressure on them.

"We all know the importance of this game - it's a must-win as simple as that."

Meanwhile Melbourne Victory star Mark Milligan played down reports a scout representing Queens Park Rangers, who were recently relegated from the English Premier League, would be at Tuesday's game to watch him.

Milligan has impressed in the holding midfield role in the past two Socceroos outings so much so he's kept Mile Jedinak, who recovered from a ankle injury in time for the Jordan clash, on the bench.

There have also been reports Milligan, who's contracted with the Victory for the next two seasons, has attracted interest from German Bundesliga clubs.

"That's honestly the first I've heard about the Bundesliga interest," he said.

"I only read about the QPR thing in the paper the other day which was a bit of a surprise to me to as well.

"My agent pretty much stays well way from me when I'm in Socceroos camp and lets me focus on my job.

"But I'm extremely happy at Melbourne.

"I'm just honestly just totally focussed on getting through the weekend and hopefully getting another starting berth on Tuesday."

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