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Australia´s Verbeek warns of Iraq counter-attacks

Australia coach Pim Verbeek has urged his players to be patient and wary of Iraq's counter-attacks if they are to remain unbeaten in their World Cup qualifying group here on Sunday.

The Dutchman expects the Asian champions, reprieved after FIFA on Thursday lifted a 12-month international ban, to defend in depth and use hit-and-run tactics to sneak a goal to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Australia have four points from their first two qualifiers, while Iraq have just one point. Defeat here Sunday will all but kill off their chances of reaching the final phase of qualifying.

But Verbeek, who was in charge of South Korea when they were beaten by Iraq on penalties in the semi-finals of last year's Asian Cup, has warned the Socceroos to stay alert for Iraq's fast-breaking counters.

“They have come with one striker (Younis Mahmoud) and they will defend and wait until they get one or two chances and if they can score one goal they will be very happy,” Verbeek told a match-eve press conference Saturday.

“That's what we expect, they will defend, we will attack. It's our job to be alert and to be concentrated that we don't give counter-attacking possibilities away.

“The chances we create we have to finish them because we won't get many chances.”

A home victory will put Australia in the box seat when they play their return World Cup match against Iraq in Dubai on June 7.

“You must have patience when you play teams like this, they are very dangerous with counters, this is the way they like to play and we all know how good their striker is and what he can do, we are prepared for that,” Verbeek said.

Verbeek, who was appointed Australia's head coach late last year on the strength of his knowledge of Asian football, has a deep respect for Iraq.

“Iraqis are very mentally tough, they're physically tough, so they will never give up until the moment when they are completely gone, so we have to prepare for two very tough games,” he said.

“If we win tomorrow we will make an unbelievable big step and they have to finish it off in one of their remaining three games.

“The Iraqis will be looking not to give anything away because in Dubai next week there will be a lot of Iraqis in the stands and they will give a great atmosphere…. we don't under-estimate them.”

Verbeek said Harry Kewell will again captain Australia in his comeback from another injury-blighted season with Liverpool.

Sat 31 May, 2008
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