Australia attacker Archie Thompson could become the nation’s all-time top scorer when his team face South Korea on Saturday.
The veteran will have a big chance to get a jump on regular team-mate and goal-scoring rival Tim Cahill when the Socceroos take on hosts South Korea in the opening game of the East Asian Cup.
While Australia’s head coach Holger Osieck will be more focused on a positive start to the regional tournament on Saturday, plenty of fans will be keen to see if Thompson can become the Socceroos’ all-time leading goal-scorer.
Cahill and Thompson have both scored 28 goals for the Australian national team, just one less than all-time leading goal-scorer Damian Mori.
Thompson is in the box seat to become the first player to surpass Mori’s total, which the former Adelaide City and Perth Glory striker scored between 1992 and 2002, as he has been selected for the East Asian Cup, while Cahill has not.
As the East Asian Cup is not a FIFA sanctioned event, clubs are not required to release players to play in the tournament, meaning Osieck has selected a predominantly Australia-based squad to travel to South Korea.
Thompson is the most experienced player in Osieck’s squad and the Melbourne Victory attacker will surely start as one of the wide players in the German coach’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation against South Korea.
But Thompson will have to work hard to outsmart South Korea’s defence, which should consist of players from the leading defensive club sides in the K-League, J.League and Chinese Super League.
Kim Young-Gwon (Guangzhou Evergrande) and Hwang Seok-Ho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) may start in the centre of defence for Hong Myung-Bo’s team, while Ulsan’s Lee Yong will probably start at right-back.
Lee’s Ulsan team-mate, striker Kim Shin-Wook, who is the second highest goal-scorer in the K-League this season with 12 goals, will be Hong’s main forward option in the 44-year-old coach’s first game in charge of the South Korean national team.
With Australia having qualified for next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, Osieck will undoubtedly see the East Asian Cup as an opportunity to find new options in some of the Socceroos’ more problematic positions.
The Socceroos qualified for Brazil 2014 without a recognised left-back and it will be interesting to see who Osieck selects on the left side of defence in Seoul on Saturday.
Craig Goodwin (Newcastle Jets) seems the obvious option in Osieck’s squad with regular left-back Matt McKay likely to play in midfield, which is his natural position.
Central defence will also be an intriguing area with Australia desperately needing to inject some youth into the heart of their back four with Trent Sainsbury (Central Coast Mariners) the most likely looking prospect.
Saturday’s match will be Australia’s maiden appearance at the final round of the East Asian Cup and the Socceroos should head into the clash with confidence having not lost in their past two games against South Korea.