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Qatar insight ‘no advantage for Socceroos’

Australia have spent significant time in the Middle East en route to the World Cup but Milos Degenek says that’s no guarantee of an advantage for the Socceroos.

November 14, 2022
By Jasper Bruce
14 November 2022

Defender Milos Degenek says the Socceroos’ recent experience playing in Qatar is unlikely to give them an advantage over their Group D rivals at the World Cup.

Australia played in Qatar four times on the road to qualification, most notably when securing their ticket to the World Cup with a penalty shootout win over Peru in Al Rayyan in June.

The Socceroos had other chances to acclimatise to conditions in the region with qualifiers played across nearby Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Of Australia’s three foes in Group D, only Tunisia have played in Qatar in recent years, doing so as part of the 2021 Arab Cup held in the country.

Since the last World Cup, the closest France and Denmark have come to Qatar, geographically speaking, have been matches in Turkey and Israel, respectively.

While highs of 30C are common in the Gulf state at this time of year, Degenek said he did not believe experience in the tough conditions would play into the Socceroos’ hands.

“The only thing it gives us is the knowledge of the pitch, the environment and the atmosphere; what it could be like,” said Degenek, who has previously played club football in neighbouring Saudi Arabia with Al Hilal.

“There won’t be much of an advantage … once you get into the stadium, the weather and the temperature is going to be like anywhere else in the world.

“It’s going to be the same for everyone. There’s no heat, there’s no humidity (in the stadium).”

As the only Socceroo selected from North America’s Major League Soccer, Degenek has not played a competitive match since October 10, when his Columbus Crew side bowed out of the play-offs.

Since then, the defender has been in Serbia, keeping his match fitness up with former side Red Star Belgrade.

“I was training there for a good two weeks every day. I’m in peak shape and really fit and ready for this World Cup,” he said.

Degenek was one of the first Socceroos to arrive in Qatar and will welcome the rest of his teammates early this week.

“We’ve had so far a really good experience. We’re very blessed to be here,” he said.

“It’s going to be one of the best World Cups ever organised.”

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