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Qualifying over, Socceroos now auditioning for WC squad

Soccer

With their plane ticket to Russia finally bought and paid for, the Socceroos’ focus will jump to next June – or more specifically, the seven months in between.

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Wednesday’s World Cup qualification is now the only certainty for Australia’s ever-changing squad, who will return to clubs all over the world with the single goal of staying fit and in form.

The carrot is a coveted spot at the 2018 tournament, something uncertain even for Socceroos stalwarts should Ange Postecoglou leave and a new coach be installed.

It was clearly on Tim Cahill’s mind given his public post-match demand for game time at Melbourne City.

Less than a day after getting the job done against over Honduras, mainstay Mark Milligan contemplated the challenge ahead.

“This group of players, while we succeeded in getting to Russia, it doesn’t mean we’ll be going to Russia,” said Milligan, who made his debut appearance at Brazil 2014 but was also in the squad for South Africa 2010 and Germany 2006.

“It is a daily thing now – we need to make sure we all work extremely hard in our club lives to be available at the next window in March, then we’ve got a few months before Russia.”

For those dealing with carrying injuries, now is the time to get them sorted.

China-based defender Trent Sainsbury will stay in Australia to finally go under the knife for a groin problem that’s been plaguing him for months.

Mat Leckie, who also came into camp injured but managed 90 minutes in the home second leg, was feeling fatigued just thinking about Hertha Berlin’s Bundesliga fixture this weekend.

“(The game) took a bit out of me,” Leckie said.

“I’ll probably miss this week and try and get my body right for upcoming games.”

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan felt in better shape to back up, especially given Brighton and Hove Albion are not set to host English Premier League rivals Stoke City until Monday.

“Hopefully my performances in training and matches for Brighton will enable me to continue being selected and playing,” Ryan said.

“One of the things about moving to England in the hope of qualifying for the World Cup was to be playing regularly in one of the best leagues in the world, in order to best prepare myself for a World Cup at the highest level.

“Being at Brighton is only going to help me.”

-AAP

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