Fri, Mar 23, 1:18pm by Staff Writer
Australia have headed to the northern hemisphere as they begin their final World Cup preparations under new coach Bert van Marwijk with a tough international friendly in Norway.
Van Marwijk has just three months to drill his game plan into the Socceroos, starting with the match at Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadion.
The 58th-ranked Norway missed qualification to Russia after finishing fourth in its qualifying group behind Germany, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic, and will see the match against Australia as the start of its Euro 2020 rebuild.
Australia, ranked 43rd in the world, survived a torturous qualifying campaign to scrape into the World Cup and faces the task of putting the sudden departure of coach Ange Postecoglou behind it and adapt to van Marwijk’s style.
The 65-year-old Dutchman has indicated he’ll try and play as many of his 26-man squad as possible during the Norway match and a friendly against Colombia in London next week.
As well as the regular, full-strength Socceroos squad, uncapped Newcastle Jets forwards Dimitri Petratos and Andrew Nabbout have been rewarded for the A-League exploits with inclusion.
While the fitness of defenders Trent Sainsbury and Matthew Jurman may rule them out in Oslo, all eyes will be on Hertha BSC’s Mathew Leckie in switch to the attack from the midfield.
Tim Cahill will be desperate to impress van Marwijk and prove he has another World Cup in him, while James Troisi and Nikita Rukavystya know they need to be at their best to retain their places.
Goalkeeper Mitch Langerak is the biggest omission squad, making way for Dutch-based veteran Brad Jones.
“Everyone is going to want to play these two games to make a good first impression,” Western Sydney Wanders defender Josh Risdon said.
“That’s good for the team. Training will be sharp and get us ready for the games.”
Fulham midfielder Stefan Johansen is tipped to be a standout for Norway, along with 19-year-old Real Madrid prodigy Martin Odegaard who is on loan with Heerenveen.
Former Arsenal and West Ham defender Havard Nordtveit is also expected to cause trouble for Australia.
Sunday’s encounter will be the third time Australia and Norway have met.
Australia and Norway last met in 2004, when Cahill and Josip Skoko helped the Socceroos earn a 2-2 draw in London.
Robbie Hooker scored the lone goal to give the Socceroos a 1-0 win at Sydney in 1997.
Norway are the favourite to win at home, offering $2.20 on the Sportsbet board, with the Socceroos on a tempting $3.30 and $3.10 for a draw.
Norway’s Ola Kamara and Australia’s Tomi Juric are both paying $6.50 score, with $7 for Cahill.
The Australians will face chilly conditions in Oslo, with the mercury predicted to reach just 4 degrees C and a chance of snow.
The Australia vs Norway friendly kicks off at 4am (AEDT).
Suggested Bet: Take the draw at $3.10
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