<
>

Socceroos ready for stern Iraq test

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is bullish on Australia's prospects of opening their World Cup qualifying group with a win.

The Socceroos face Iraq in Perth on Thursday night confident in their abilities but also wary that falling short of a maximum three points will make it harder to reach the 2018 tournament.

With an arduous 10-match qualifying path ahead, anything less than a win would be a major setback.

But Postecoglou, ever the perfectionist, won't be satisfied simply to win.

"We have to win your home games as it will be tough to pick up points on the road," he said.

"With a scrappy victory, you get three points but it doesn't show the road ahead is going to be where you want it to be.

"I still want us to perform strongly. I want to win but also play well so we have confidence in what we're doing."

Australia have beaten Iraq, ranked by FIFA as the world's 113th best side, in their past four meetings dating back to 2008.

Postecoglou believes that figure and formline betray the challenge they'll pose at nib Stadium.

"If you think what qualifying would mean to a nation like Iraq ... think about what it meant to us in 2006, and in 1974, then you know it's going to be a tough game," he said.

"We've been following Iraq since the draw. We know everything we need to know about them.

"Our players do as well and we'll be prepared."

Postecoglou has a wealth of attacking riches open to him, with Tomi Juric, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, Jackson Irvine and Massimo Luongo all playing well and regularly for their European clubs.

Tim Cahill and Nathan Burns have enjoyed less recent game time but have plenty of class.

Centre-back Bailey Wright's withdrawal leaves Postecoglou dependant on Asian Cup-winning pairing Trent Sainsbury and Matthew Spiranovic to lead the defence.

With all 23 players in camp fit and ready to go, Postecoglou is keeping his selection close to his chest.

"If somebody can try to tell me what my strongest 11 is then good luck to them but it'd be a guess," he said.

"I have four or five starting 11s I could put out tomorrow and I'd feel confident about all of them getting the job done.