The Northern Territory news Thu 5 Oct 2017
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THURSDAY OCTOBER 5 2017 SPORT 35 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA German-based Australian striker Robbie Kruse is likely to start for the Socceroos against Syria in Malaysia tonight Picture: MICHAEL KLEIN THE Socceroos will evoke memories of the famous Uruguay win as they prepare for their first cut-throat World Cup playoffs in 12 years, against fired-up Syria. While the players recalled their memories of that famous night in November 2005, Ange Postecoglou is employing some Guus Hiddink-esque cunning in his planning, having already secured a charter flight from Malaysia. Like the Dutchman, Postecoglou is taking a holistic 180-to-210-minute approach to team selection, starting with tonights first leg at Malaysias Hang Jebat Stadium. The Socceroos have received a late boost with key Syrian defender, China-based Ahmad Al Salih (hamstring), ruled out of both legs. It was not the desired path, but Australias scenic route to Russia 2018 would break Uruguays 20-game qualifying record. Wins over Syria and the fourth-placed Concacaf side would make it 22 games. Postecoglou, who will tonight join Frank Arok in coaching his 46th Socceroos game, trailing only Frank Farina (60 games), has used 58 players during his tenure and is confident Australia has the quality to beat Syria over two legs. We have unique challenges, players in different seasons, leagues, continents and travelling enormous distances. Id be a fool if I ignored all those factors when Im picking the best 11, Postecoglou said. Tim Cahill, the only playing remnant from the Uruguay wins, fronted the pre-game press conference, though he was unlikely to start as the mind games commenced. Robbie Kruses strong form meant he would likely start alongside key weapons Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic, with Korea-based defence Matt Jurman in line for a debut. Mark Milligan, who will wear the armband if Cahill is on the bench, is likely to switch between defence and midfield in the two games. Postecoglou not leaving any stone unturned Pearls, Stingers matching the best at AHL in Perth COURAGE and desire have highlighted the NT Pearls and Stingers performances at the Australian Hockey League in Perth this week. Led by star Kookaburra Jeremy Hayward, the Stingers best results have come against ACT (3-2 win) and India (1-1 draw). Coach Barry Shewring said he was delighted with how his team had played so far. We have gelled pretty well, winning against ACT and drawing with India was gutsy. They had four or five corners in the last two minutes and we held them out, he said. We are now into the bottom pool and play Tasmania, which is another tough ask considering they just missed out on qualifying for the top pool. We just hope our players come out with the same desire and try and steal some points and play another great game. We have been playing fantastically. Western Australia and New South Wales both proved too strong in earlier fixtures. Meanwhile, the Pearls came back from two goals down to claim their first points of the tournament with a 2-2 draw against ACT on Tuesday. Coach Kate Napier said her team showed character to charge home after facing early adversity One of ACTs goals was a bit controversial, so it took a lot of mental strength to get back from that, we fought and fought, she said. If we had another five min utes, we could have seen another goal. Given the challenge of coming together two days before the tournament, we have shown very promising progress. In earlier fixtures, the Pearls went down to both Queensland and WA 5-0 and were beaten by New Zealand 2-0. JACK HISLOP Arnold feeling buoyant LAST year they set records and won trophies now Sydney FC face the pressure of meeting those standards for another season. But the biggest pressure on them will come from those alongside, according to coach Graham Arnold, who sent a warning to his players and the rest of the league by insisting the Sky Blues squad was a stronger overall cast list for him to call upon. There are likely to be three new faces in Saturdays team to face Melbourne Victory at the start of Sydneys title defence, but plenty of others among those jostling around the edges. Those who start should be looking over their shoulders, Arnold said, as competition intensifies to be one of the first XI. The only pressure on me comes from within because Im a winner, he said. On the players, Ive said to them repeatedly that last season is history. This is about now and the future. The future is the challenge of trying to be the best in the league again. Ninety per cent of the (first) team will be the same as last year, with a couple of additions. But we believe we have improved players 14 or 15 through to 20, which has made our squad greater than it was last season. Ive always been strong on stability and not chopped and changed too much. But the players indication of whether theyll play is down to performance if they play well, they play. Its up to those who arent playing to perform well in training or off the bench to grab those spots. Most of the players will get an opportunity at some point as Sydney return to the Asian Champions League next year. In the past Arnold has been a vocal critic of the scheduling for teams in the ACL, but with several split rounds built into the A-League this season, for once the Sky Blues coach had nothing to complain about. For the first time I think FFA need to be congratulated because theyve given us and Melbourne Victory a draw to deal with both competitions, he said. You have now the opportunity to be successful in both competitions. My goal always as a coach is to get as soon as possible to 50 points in the A-League. TOM SMITHIES DAVID DAVUTOVIC One dollar a day. Every story. Delivered.* ntnews.com.au/hotoffer1800 031 353 Subscribe today Stay informed and entertained with every story at your fingertips. This low price includes the paper home delivered 7 days a week and full digital access. $1 per day for the first 6 months. Min. $31* Digital Membership + 7 DAY Delivery costs $1 every day billed monthly (min.cost $31 upfront for the first month) for the first 6 months. The second charge will be made approx. 5 days before the start of your second month of digital subscription. The amount you pay each month for the first 6 payments will vary between $28-$31 depending on the number of days in the month. After the first 6 months, it is $47 billed monthly. Renewals occur unless cancelled in accordance with the full Terms and Conditions. Not in conjunction with any other offer. New customers only. 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