Mark Milligan has urged the Qantas Socceroos to go "back to basics" in a bid to rediscover their finest qualities, ahead of Tuesday’s crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier against Iraq.
Milligan, one of three new faces in the Australian squad to meet the challenge of the former Asian Champions, has tasted success against Iraq at youth level previously.
The Melbourne Victory defender captained the Qantas Under 23’s - and found the back of the net - in a 2-0 win over Iraq in a crucial Olympic Games qualifier at Bluetongue Stadium five years ago, and is confident the Qantas Socceroos possess the qualities to post a similar result on Tuesday.
“They’re (Iraq) a very, very good side, I’ve played them a few times, they’ve got some very good players that are playing around the world,” Milligan said.
“They obviously have high expectations as a footballing nation on what they need to achieve so, they’re going to be very, very difficult.
“We know what they’re capable of but again, the main focus is going to be on us, we know our strengths and we do have a lot of them and we just need to get back to the basics and just have that belief in ourselves that we are a good enough side, on our day, to take on anyone.”
Milligan returns to selection calculations after serving a one-match ban due to suspension, having received a red card in Australia’s 1-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying draw with Japan in Brisbane in June.
The 27-year-old has previously featured for his country on 15 occasions and having been a part of two FIFA World Cup squads – without making an on field appearance – is as determined as ever to contribute to Australia’s campaign for a place in Brazil in 2014.
“It’s a good atmosphere in camp at the moment, everyone’s in now and we’ve had a couple of days of training,” Milligan said.
“With the longer preparation, away from the pitch things are still relaxed, the training has been quite intense and I think that’s been the idea of this week of preparation and, from what I’ve seen and from what I’ve felt out at training, everyone looks sharp and we all know it’s a very, very important game coming up.
“Everybody knows the last few games, we haven’t had the results and us, first and foremost, we’re very aware of that as well.
“Traditionally when we have gone through a little quiet spell, we’ve bounced back quite strong, we’re fortunate that it’s a longer qualifying campaign and although the last few games haven’t been the results we’ve wanted, we still have the chance to turn it around.
“We don’t want to wait until the last minute to do so, a good result this week and it puts us right back in the frame of things.”
The Qantas Socceroos resume their FIFA World Cup qualification campaign against Iraq at Doha’s Al Arabi Stadium at 5.15pm on Tuesday, 16 October (1.15am AEDT, Wednesday, 17 October).
The Qantas Socceroos return to Australia in 2013, for the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Oman at Sydney’s Stadium Australia at 7.30pm, Tuesday, 26 March, followed by Iraq, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 18 June.
Tickets for both matches at Stadium Australia are on sale now through Ticketek or via phone, 132 849.