Socceroos lock in Saudi Arabia friendly

The Socceroos will play fellow 2015 AFC Asian Cup nation Saudi Arabia at Craven Cottage in London on Monday 8 September as part of their build up to the Asian Cup.

The match comes four days after the Socceroos take on Belgium at Stade Maurice Dufrasne, in Liege, giving head coach Ange Postecoglou two matches during the September FIFA international window.

News of the friendly follows the announcement that Green and Gold greats Brett Emerton, Paul Okon and Rale Rasic, as well as Asian Cup winner Ali Abbas, have joined the high-profile team of domestic football ambassadors for next year’s tournament.

The Saudi clash will be be the fifth time Australia has played an international friendly at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, which is now home to Socceroos 2014 FIFA World Cup striker Adam Taggart.

The last match at Craven Cottage saw the Socceroos defeat Canada 3-0 in October 2013.

“The match against Saudi Arabia presents a good challenge for the Socceroos leading into the Asian Cup,” Postecoglou said.

“Saudi Arabia has also qualified for the Asian Cup so it will be good to gauge where we are at against another Asian team.

“We made some steps forward in terms of our performances at the 2014 World Cup but our focus is now on converting those performances into positive results as we prepare to host the Asian Cup on home soil in January 2015.”

The Socceroos have now locked in four games leading into the tournament, with the Australians also taking on the UAE in Abu Dhabi on October 10 and Qatar four days later in Doha.

All four matches will be broadcast live and exclusive on Fox Sports.

Emerton, the third most capped Socceroo of all time, said he felt proud to be spruiking the Cup which kicks-off in just five months.

“This tournament is a fabulous milestone in the game’s development in Australia and I can’t wait for the action to start,” said Emerton, who played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals and the 2011 Asian Cup when the Socceroos lost to Japan in the final.

“It’s a first for our country, so I will be travelling around Australia with my family to make the most of it.”

The same applies to Okon, who captained the Socceroos in a remarkable career that took him to the elite level in Europe.

“I have three young boys who are crazy about football,” said the current Young Socceroos coach and Olyroos assistant coach.

“They are already asking when they can go and watch Australia.

“All of us who love football have an added responsibility to make the Asian Cup a great success by watching as many games as we can.

"Hopefully we can make a statement worldwide that we are not only a good footballing nation but also a country that can host a serious football tournament."

Rasic, who took the Socceroos to the World Cup finals for the first time in 1974, said Australia would show it was more than capable of hosting huge events like the Asian Cup and even the World Cup.

“In the meantime we get to see the best football our part of the world can produce,” he said.

“The Asian Cup excites me. We can and will give our Asian football fans and neighbours a magnificent time.”

Abbas, who was part of Iraq’s fairytale win in 2007, said he was looking forward to seeing fans in his adopted country enjoy the excitement of Asia’s biggest tournament.

“I hope Iraq can do well, too, because the Iraqi people live and breathe football,” said the Sydney FC star, the only Asian Cup winner in Australia since Japan’s Shinji Ono finished his A-League career.