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Sep 1, 2008

McDonald doubt grows for World Cup clash

Socceroos striker Scott McDonald is in serious doubt for next week's World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan after being told to skip Australia's training camp in The Netherlands.

The Celtic star failed a late fitness test on his injured groin ahead of Sunday's Old Firm Scottish derby against Rangers.

He will miss Saturday's friendly against the Netherlands, and continues to be touch and go for the Uzbekistan game in Tashkent on Wednesday next week.

McDonald had previously said he hoped to be fit the week before Celtic's Champions League campaign starts on September 17, with Australian coach Pim Verbeek already resigned to the striker missing the Dutch training camp when he named his 27-man squad last month.

Back-up goalkeeper Brad Jones will also miss the camp because of a dislocated finger suffered in a pre-match warm-up for Middlesbrough at Liverpool last week.

The rest of the squad had their first training run in Mierlo late on Monday, with club-less Olyroos skipper Mark Milligan reportedly putting his trial and contract talks with FC Porto on hold to join the camp.

The former Sydney FC star was banned for two games by Football Federation Australia in May after delaying his arrival at an Olyroos training camp while trying to chase a European deal.

For the bulk of the squad, Mierlo should bring back plenty of happy memories - it was the base Guus Hiddink used ahead of the Socceroos' 2006 World Cup assault.

"This is where it all started a couple of years back now," said defender Michael Beauchamp.

"It's definitely good to be back here and I'm looking forward to the game on the weekend.

"It's going to be another tough match, as the Netherlands has world class players.

"But our real focus is on the match against Uzbekistan.

"For us it's a very important game to get the team sorted and go on from there.

"We're very focussed on making it to the 2010 World Cup and this game is the first of eight matches which will help get us there."

Australia meet the Netherlands at Philips Stadium in Eindhoven on Saturday (Sunday 4.45am AEST) before playing Uzbekistan at the Pakhtakor Markaziy Stadium in Tashkent the following Wednesday (Thursday, 1.30am AEST).

The Uzbeck's game is Australia's first in the fourth stage of Asian qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

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