AAP Soccer

Socceroo Milligan eager for Syria clash

By AAP Newswire

When Syria almost ended Australia's World Cup qualifying campaign in 2017, Mark Milligan had no idea how close the Socceroos came to disaster.

Syrian forward Omar Al Soma's free kick crashed into the post with virtually the last kick of the Asian regional playoff second leg, and Milligan thought his team had just avoided a dreaded penalty shootout.

What he didn't realise until after the match that with Australia holding a narrow 3-2 aggregate lead, Al Soma's free-kick going in at ANZ Stadium would have put the Syrians through on away goals.

"I've been trying to forget that for a while," Milligan said.

"We didn't know if that went in, that was it.

"It seems a lot closer, once we found out ... we end up with what we deserve."

Australia will face Syria once more in a vital game on Tuesday in the Asian Cup.

The Socceroos know avoiding defeat in their final group game will be enough to secure second spot and progression to the knockout stages.

A Syrian victory, however, opens the door to Australia scraping through as a best-placed third-placed team or, even, being knocked out of the tournament.

It's a match Milligan, now Socceroos captain, is looking forward to especially with the surface at Al Ain's Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium likely to be incomparable to that presented for the first leg of the World Cup playoff in Malaysia.

"I don't know what it was - it was like little palm trees," MIlligan said.

"It was difficult, and very humid and sticky.

"Going into this game, as we did that game, we'll try and make our mark early and try and dominate things early on because that's most important for us."

The two teams head into the clash in contrasting spirits.

Australia are buoyant after an impressive 3-0 win over Palestine on Friday in Dubai. Syria sacked coach Bernd Stange after their 2-0 loss to Jordan left them with one point and no goals from their opening two matches.

Milligan was unsure how former Perth A-League coach Stange's departure would affect the Syrians.

"In a tournament situation, I don't know - is it more helpful or more disruptive?" he said.

"We'll look at characteristics of them as a team. But I'm not sure who they're bringing in.

"The core of the team has been the same for a while; we can get a general idea of what to expect."

Australia will have to make at least one change with defender Trent Sainsbury's second yellow card of the tournament against Palestine leading to a one-match suspension.

Sainsbury's omission might force Milligan to shift from midfield to defence, but whether that happens or Matthew Jurman steps into the void is fine either way with the 33-year-old.

"I'll do whatever's asked of me. Obviously, we do have other options at centre-back, as we do in the midfield."

Australia will train on Sunday in Al Ain after a travel day on Saturday from Dubai.