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Socceroos hit the road after winning start

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The Socceroos have three points in their kit bag already, but midfielder Massimo Luongo is hungry for more ahead of next week’s World Cup qualifier against the UAE in Abu Dhabi.

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The Socceroos lead their group after beating Iraq 2-0 in Perth last night.

Second-half strikes to Luongo and Tomi Juric gave Australia all three points, and they’ve quickly turned their attention to their clash with the UAE on Tuesday.

The UAE shocked Japan 2-1 in Saitama on Thursday, with the upset throwing the race for top-two spots in Group B wide open.

Australia will start as hot favourites for all of their home matches, but winning on the road could prove tricky.

However, Luongo played down talk the Socceroos would be happy with a draw when they face the UAE in the Emirati captital.

“Of course not. I don’t think anyone thinks like that,” Luongo said.

“Every game in these qualifiers are there for the win. We’re going there to get three points and play well and prove we’re a good side.

“It will be tough with the conditions. Away games are so difficult in this stage. Whether we approach it differently – I doubt it. The boss will brief us.”

The UAE are ranked 74th in the world – 17 places below Australia.

Other teams in Australia’s group are world No.113 Iraq, Thailand (120), Saudi Arabia (61), and Japan (49).

But Juric said it was wrong to expect the Socceroos would just waltz through their group.

“People think it’s going to be a walk in the park for us. But it’s definitely not,” Juric said.

“Sometimes we face really hostile environments. It’s really difficult – just the atmosphere they put on for us.”

Striker Juric won’t know whether to laugh or cry when he looks back last night’s win.

On paper, it was a good night for Juric – who scored a goal and set up another – but it was far from smooth sailing, with Juric’s embarrassing blunder early in the second half threatening to alter the course of the match.

With the scores locked at 0-0 and the tension building, Juric should have scored the easiest of goals when the ball rolled to him at the far post in the 57th minute.

But instead of tapping the ball into the open net with his left foot, Juric made a late decision to make contact with his right and shot wide.

The former Western Sydney striker had also endured a tough first half, and he could have easily dropped his head and wallowed in self pity.

Instead, he went to work – and unleashed a perfectly-weighted ball across goal to tee up Luongo for the opener just a minute later.

Then just after the hour mark Juric had a goal of his own when he stabbed home from an Aaron Mooy set-piece.

Juric was happy he got the chance to make up for his earlier botched attempt on goal.

“I guess it surprised me. It caught me a little bit off guard,” Juric said.

“But accidents happen. That’s what I’m going to call it – an accident.

“I tried to stay strong in my mind to keep going and pushing. And then I got rewarded with an assist and a goal.”

Socceroos veteran Tim Cahill was an unused substitute in the win.

But he’s set to be deployed in next week’s clash with the UAE in Abu Dhabi.

Cahill remains a key cog in the Socceroos set-up, but Juric said it was good the team now possessed enough firepower to win without him.

“We all know his qualities and what he brings to the team. He’s an important figure for us still,” Juric said.

“We always rely on big players like that.

“But we’re showing now that we’re slowly able to do that within the whole team.

“It’s not just to lean on one or two players. We’ve got a lot of players who can come in and do the right job.”

Juric said he was enjoying life in Switzerland after switching to FC Luzern in July.

-AAP

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