Australia already eyeing England clash

SYDNEY - The lure of a possible second round showdown with England will provide Australia with added motivation to advance past the opening round of next year's World Cup in South Africa, coach Pim Verbeek said.

The Australians have been drawn in a difficult Group D with Germany, Ghana and Serbia, but if they progress they could face England from Group C in the knockout stage.

"It can be a bonus for the players for the last two percent of motivation they can hopefully play England in the next round," Verbeek told Australian television.

"It's difficult enough but I think it's a great challenge and it's exactly what my players like."

Australia and England have a long, colourful rivalry in sport. They have played each other in two Rugby World Cup finals and a Cricket World Cup final but have never met at football's showpiece tournament.

The players are familiar with each other though as most of the top Australians play in Britain. The last time the two teams met, in a friendly in London six years ago, the Socceroos upset the English 3-1.

Australia are well advanced in their planning for South Africa. As one of the first teams to qualify for the World Cup they were able to steal a march on their opponents by booking some of the best accommodation.

They chose a secluded wildlife and fishing lodge in the foothills of the Zwartkops Mountains, about 45 minutes from Johannesburg, snapping up all 42 cabins.

The five-star lodge, which boasts six fly fishing dams and an array of native animals including wildebeest, springbuck, zebra an giraffe, is just 15 minutes away from their training ground.

It is also close to Johannesburg's second airport, which players and team officials will use during the tournament to avoid the crowds at the city's main terminal.


The Australians will remain at their high-altitude camp to prepare for their matches and will only travel to cities at sea-level a day in advance of those games.

"Being last to qualify in 2006 meant we had a very short time to get organised but this time we have been ahead of the game and worked on our base camp since last year," Australia's head of national teams and development John Boultbee said in a statement.

"Detailed research shows we need to be well acclimatised to play at altitude both in physiological terms and the way the ball travels in the air.

"Quality venues in the Johannesburg area are at a premium for these reasons and we are very happy to have secured one of the very best, which was in fact our first choice venue."

The Socceroos are also planning to arrive in South Africa earlier than most teams to finish off their preparations, chartering a Qantas jumbo jet that will be painted in the team's green and gold colours.

They have two Asian Cup qualifiers in the new year then will play a warm-up game against an opponent, yet to be decided, in Melbourne on May 25 before heading straight to Johannesburg, where they plan to play possibly two more practice matches before their opening game with Germany in Durban on June 13.

Australia's second game is against Ghana at Rustenburg on June 19 and their final group match is with Serbia at Nelspruit on June 23.