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Socceroos cautious on cusp of World Cup

18 June 2013

FOOTBALL: Australia are just 90 minutes away from securing a World Cup berth but Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill insists the team will be playing the game and not the occasion.

Three years of qualifying all culminates for Australia when they meet Iraq at a sold-out ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night.

A win would guarantee the Socceroos a spot in next year's showpiece in Brazil. A draw or a loss could condemn them to further playoffs.

Over 80,000 expectant fans will fill the Sydney Olympic Park venue eager to celebrate a third consecutive World Cup berth.

But Neill said the side were blocking out all the hype and treating the game like any other.

"Nobody's in Brazil yet," said Neill.

"The fact is we need one game, one win and then we can start thinking about all of the dreams coming true.

"We are going to play the game and not the occasion - it's as simple as that.

"You can all think about the reward but it's up to us to make sure we get that reward."

Adding to expectations, Iraq are out of contention for Brazil and will be fielding essentially their under-20 side, without their two best players in skipper Younis Mahmoud and midfield maestro Nashat Akram.

Socceroos coach Holger Osieck said having Iraq's generation next taking the field could make them more dangerous, especially with a new coach in Vladimir Petrovic in charge.

"You should never underrate the new generation ... they have a lot of potential and want to impress," he said.

"They have a new coach and they want to make their mark and get a starting spot.

"So they definitely will give us a tough time."

Iraq have historically been a tough assignment for the Socceroos and having experienced heart-breaking qualifying losses in the past Neill knows to never get ahead of himself.

"If you've been there before and you've played the game for a long time you know that football can bite you on the bum at any time," he said.

"So there is that composure and making sure we don't get carried away because we know that football can often be a dream-breaker."

Osieck is likely field the same starting line-up who helped post a 1-1 draw against Japan and a 4-0 victory against Jordan last week.

Angela Habashy

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