AFC World Cup Qualifying Preview: Australia v Jordan
By Football News
Mile Jedinak's improved fitness has left Australia's head coach Holger Osieck with a headache before the World Cup qualifier with Jordan.
Australia pulled off an impressive 1-1 draw away to Japan last week with starting regulars Jedinak (ankle) and Alex Brosque (groin) missing out at Saitama Stadium.
As the World Cup qualification process in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reaches its climax this month, the Socceroos face two critical home games in the next fortnight, hosting Jordan in Melbourne before taking on Iraq in Sydney.
Osieck was thrilled with his team's backs-to-the-wall defensive performance in Japan but will face a difficult time at the selection table in the lead-up to Tuesday's qualifier at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium after Jedinak declared himself fit to play against Jordan.
Jedinak's replacement against Japan, Melbourne Victory midfielder Mark Milligan, acquitted himself quite well after a nervous start but Osieck - who is generally a creature of habit - will no doubt be tempted to bring Crystal Palace's captain back into his starting XI to take on Jordan.
What will work against Jedinak, however, is his inferior passing and creative ability compared to Milligan as the Socceroos will most likely face a deep defensive structure from Jordan, who have lost their past four World Cup qualifiers away from home.
Australia will take on Jordan with both teams on seven points from six games in the AFC's Group B.
Japan have already secured top spot in Group B and a berth at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil, while Oman are second on nine points but have only one qualifier left, away to Jordan on June 18.
Both Jordan and Australia must win their last two qualifiers to be assured of a ticket to Brazil 2014 and the Socceroos will hope that will force the Jordanians to attack in Melbourne, subsequently leaving gaps in defence.
In the past year, Australia have shown an inability to break down teams who sit back in defence and focus on counter-attacking tactics with Osieck's team having been held to a 2-2 draw by Oman in Sydney in March, while also suffering a shock defeat away to Jordan in September 2012.
Jordan will have some added inspiration to overcome their hosts in Melbourne after their head coach Adnan Hamad was detained by customs officials for several hours on his arrival in Australia.
Having overcome a New Zealand A-side 1-0 in Auckland last week, Hamad's team have also broken a five-game losing streak outside their Middle Eastern kingdom.
Odai Al-Saify will be crucial to Jordan's hopes after the 27-year-old attacker notched his second international goal of the year in Auckland, while Osieck will also be wary of the visitors' captain Amer Deeb, who scored against Australia last year and is set to play his 119th international on Tuesday.