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Jun 3, 2011

Josh Kennedy keen to impress Socceroo boss

He's almost the forgotten man of the Socceroos but Josh Kennedy is out to reclaim his mantle as Australia's premier frontman in Sunday's trans-Tasman clash with New Zealand.

The beanpole striker is poised to return to international football for the first time in almost eight months at Adelaide Oval after a back injury sidelined him from January's Asian Cup in Qatar.

A mixture of injuries and club commitments have restricted Kennedy to only one of the 12 matches since coach Holger Osieck was appointed, a 1-0 win over Paraguay last October.

And the 28-year-old is eager to make an impression on the German mentor in the absence of rested stars Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, who forged an impressive strike partnership in Qatar.

"Every time a player is in camp they want to prove themselves and cement that starting position and I am no different," Kennedy said on Friday.

"I want to come in and show everyone I belong there and I belong as a starting XI player.

"... Holger is going to need different set-ups against different opposition and what Timmy and Harry offer is definitely different to what I offer."

Kennedy's senior international career kicked off with a bang under Guus Hiddink and continued strongly under Pim Verbeek but he has found the net only twice for Australia since 2008.

But an injury-free Kennedy is keen to change that, having tuned up for his Socceroos return by scoring in Nagoya Grampus' 5-2 J-League win over Avispa Fukuoka on the weekend.

"I feel quite good, I had a good off-season and a good break," Kennedy said.

"The pre-season has been quite muddled up with what happened in Japan but I am back on track and feeling quite well."

While Nagoya is hundreds of kilometres from earthquake-ravaged north-eastern Japan, Kennedy said being in Japan during the disaster had helped put things in perspective.

"Mentally, like everyone else, you are affected," he said.

"It plays a small part in your mind, you are living abroad, your family is there.

"... Your life and your health, your family and friends is definitely No.1 and football is a very small part in life when you see what happens."

Kennedy is vying with the likes of Robbie Kruse, Alex Brosque and Archie Thompson for a starting berth on Sunday but expects Osieck will rotate his squad with a short turnaround for Tuesday's clash with Serbia in Melbourne.

Socceroos captain Lucas Neill is facing a battle to overcome a groin injury for Sunday's game, possibly opening the door for Matthew Spiranovic, Rhys Williams or Jon McKain to partner Sasa Ognenovski in central defence.

While Osieck's men are in their third day of camp in Adelaide, the All Whites won't arrive in South Australia until match-day eve after their 3-0 loss to Mexico in Denver on Thursday.

They will also touch down with an injury-depleted squad but Kennedy said Australia wouldn't be getting complacent.

"I don't think Australia has ever taken them lightly," Kennedy said.

"These are our last games before the (2014 World Cup) qualifiers start (in September). We need to put on a good show and win."

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