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By ESPN Staff

Socceroos heading to Europe for WC preparation

SYDNEY, July 7 (National Team) - Australia will play friendlies against South Africa and Holland in Europe in the lead-up to the next stage of the World Cup qualifying phase, Football Federation Australia announced on Monday.

The Socceroos will clash with World Cup host nation South Africa at Loftus Road in London on August 19 and then take on the Dutch at Philips Stadium in Eindhoven on September 6.

The second match will take place just four days before Australia kicks off the next stage of World Cup qualification against Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

The matches are staged on fixed FIFA international dates which means coach Pim Verbeek will get his way in any battle between club and country.

Importantly, Verbeek will also be able to have his squad, likely to be composed of players from European clubs, based in Europe ahead of the Uzbekistan game.

'It's important that we go into the Uzbekistan game with as much preparation as possible, and playing a team which is ranked fifth in the world and made the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 will give us just what we need at that time,' FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said.

'With many of South Africa's first-team players also based in England and elsewhere in Europe, meeting them in London is an efficient and valuable opportunity for both of us.

'Coach Pim Verbeek sees these two international matches as important opportunities to get the squad together and to work with the players in a match environment.'

Australia has played South Africa twice in the past four years, winning 1-0 in London in 2004 and drawing 1-1 in Durban in 2005.

The Socceroos drew with the Dutch 1-1 in a warm-up match prior to the 2006 World Cup.

The announcement brings to 12 the number of fixtures the Socceroos have from August this year to June 2009, during which they will also be involved in qualification for the 2011 Asian Cup.

'It's a busy schedule,' Buckley added. 'But it's also precisely why we wanted to be part of the Asian Football Confederation.

'We have regular, high-quality competitive matches with real meaning and real context that fans want to see.

'We said we would leave no stone unturned in doing everything we can off the park to help Australia qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the same goes for the 2011 Asian Cup.'


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