Canberra, Nov 11 (IANS) The Australian football team returns to Canberra for the first time since 2011 on Thursday night when it takes on Kyrgyzstan in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying clash. The Socceroos, still reeling from last month’s shock 0-2 loss to Jordan, are expected to field a relatively full strength, albeit young squad, with just left-footed forward Mathew Leckie and central defender Matthew Spiranovic missing from the expected starting line-up, reports Xinhua. The Australian team will have to win both Thursday’s fixture and next Tuesday’s away match against Bangladesh to finish top of their qualifying group, which would grant them automatic progression to the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018. 

Young midfielder Massimo Luongo said the team was ready to face the pressure in Canberra, following the disappointing result against Jordan. “(The loss to Jordan) builds the pressure up a little bit, but I think as a squad we’re quite good with dealing with the pressure,” Luongo told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Wednesday. “I think we play better under pressure. We were probably in the comfort zone a little bit leading up to Jordan, so that could have been a slight excuse. But I think everyone has had a little wake-up call, and we’re out to prove a point again.” Injured Valencia goalkeeper Mat Ryan has also flown to Canberra despite not having played a competitive match since August. The stopper had surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee but could still take to the goals against Kyrgyzstan, while a calf strain to Jason Davidson on Tuesday means he could go through a fitness test before the match. Meanwhile in-form Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic joined his teammates late on Tuesday night from Scotland, but said despite the short turnaround, he was “ready to go”. Kyrgyzstan are ranked just below Australia in their qualifying group, having defeated Bangladesh twice and drawn with both Jordan and Tajikistan, but the Socceroos will feel confident going into the match after their 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek in June. Luongo said the 124th ranked Kyrgyzstan can surprise on the counter-attack, imploring his squad to be aware and make the most of the possession game. The match coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Australia ending its three-decade exodus from the World Cup finals when it beat Uruguay in penalties to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. 

Socceroos squad of 23: Ryan (GK), Federici (GK), Cisak (GK), Meredith, Davidson, Wright, McGowan, Sainsbury, Wilkinson, Risdon, Milligan, Rogic, Oar, Mooy, Troisi, Jedinak (c), McKay, Luongo, Cahill, Juric, Leckie, Burns.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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