Socceroos to honour bushfire victims

YOKOHAMA, Japan - Australia's players will wear black armbands when they play Japan in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier to honour the victims of their nation's worst bushfires.

A minute's silence would also be held before the match as a mark of respect, with more than 200 people feared dead after the fierce blazes swept through Victoria state at the weekend.

"Our thoughts are with all those affected by this terrible tragedy," Australia's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek told reporters on Tuesday. "We are thinking of them."

Australia midfielder Tim Cahill said: "It puts the football into perspective. It's very difficult. I've got children too and lots of respect goes out to the victims."

Cahill, who has scored 14 goals in 30 internationals, is poised to play a more advanced role against Japan in Wednesday's 2010 World Cup qualifier.

"I've played about 10 or 12 games as a striker (for English club Everton)," said the 29-year-old. "As a professional footballer you've got to adapt. I feel like I've done that.

"I've got an eye in front of goal and hopefully I can keep that going."


Japan have bad memories of Cahill after he came on to score two late goals when Australia came from behind to beat them 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The Japanese gained revenge by knocking the Socceroos out of the Asian Cup the following year in a penalty shootout.

Only their bitter rivalry with South Korea is more intense for the Japanese but bad blood exists between their players and Australia's after their last two clashes.

Japan, who have previously accused Australia of rough play, have trained for Wednesday's game behind closed doors, prompting Verbeek to claim the home side were scared of the visitors.

Australia lead Group One in the final round of Asian World Cup qualifying with a perfect nine points from three matches, two ahead of second-placed Japan, who can ill afford to lose.

The top two from each of the two five-team groups will qualify from Asia for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

"This is definitely going to be the hardest game of our campaign," said Cahill.

"But we're ready. There will be 70,000 people and a draw would be a good result here."