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Jan 20, 2008

Kosmina wants players to stay put

Sydney FC are headed for a showdown with Socceroos boss Pim Verbeek after John Kosmina on Sunday night foreshadowed a club-versus-country row heading in to the A-League finals.

With Sydney set to open their finals campaign on Friday in a two-legged elimination semi-final, Kosmina dropped a bomb following his side's 2-2 draw with Melbourne by demanding his five Socceroos stars skip Verbeek's camp this week.

"I'm going to speak to Pim Verbeek tonight because I don't want the players to go in to camp this week," said Kosmina.

"We're playing on Friday night, he's had two weeks (of camps), if he's not sure of his team at the moment, then I think Australia have bigger problems than we have."

Sydney have five players - Mark Milligan, Clint Bolton, Steve Corica, Ufuk Talay and Alex Brosque - set to go into a one-day camp with Verbeek on Monday afternoon as the new Australian boss tries to finalise preparations for his opening World Cup qualifier against Qatar on February 6.

Fellow finalists Newcastle, Central Coast and Queensland also have several players in the camp, but Kosmina is the first to speak out about the issue, which is expected to be settled between Verbeek and the coaches without the involvement of Football Federation Australia.

"We'll ask the question," said Kosmina, an assistant with the Socceroos during last year's Asian Cup.

"It would be better if we stick together as a group, we're playing in five days time.

"Our guys need a breather ... it works both ways doesn't it. It's got to go both ways.

"I'm more than understanding and (FFA head of high performance) John Boultbee complemented me when I was in Adelaide about letting players go, but you've got to understand this is our bread and butter as well.

"The clubs are the bread and butter of the A-League. The national team, fine, there are 30 players in camp but they might bring back 10 overseas players, so what do we do now. So it's been a waste of time for the local blokes. It needs to be give and take."

Kosmina received backing from both Victory boss Ernie Merrick and Sydney captain Tony Popovic.

"I agree, it's semi-finals now, we do have a short turnaround ... so it would be much better for us to have the group together for four to five days before we play," said Popovic, a former Socceroo who played in the World Cup.

Sydney needed to win to have any chance of snatching the league title on the final day of the regular season, but despite leading 1-0 early, and 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, failed to hold on as the Victory extended their unbeaten streak against their bitter rivals to six games.

Not only ending their hopes of the minor premiership, the draw also meant Sydney slipped out of the top two and will go into the finals next week playing for survival.

A league-wide season-high crowd of 33,458 turned up for the blockbuster that more than lived up to its billing.

Steve Corica gave Sydney the lead after just three minutes before a Mark Milligan own goal evened the ledger 26 seconds into the second half.

The home side were back in front in the 61st minute after a sublime Alex Brosque strike, but just when Sydney looked to have ended their Melbourne hoodoo, Danny Allsopp popped up in the 76th to claim the equaliser.