Australians wary of aggressive Saudi crowd

Australians wary of aggressive Saudi crowd
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Published October 6th, 2016 - 15:50 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Defender Ryan McGowan says the Socceroos can deal with the pressure of a packed-out Saudi crowd.
Defender Ryan McGowan says the Socceroos can deal with the pressure of a packed-out Saudi crowd.

Australia defender Matthew Spiranovic has warned his teammates to expect a "hostile" reception when the Socceroos take on Saudi Arabia in their Asian section World Cup qualifier in Jeddah Thursday.

Australia leads Group B on goal difference from the Saudis, with both teams boasting 100 percent records after two games.

Spiranovic had a bruising experience on his last trip to the Kingdom, when Western Sydney Wanderers faced Saudi club Al-Hilal in Riyadh in the second leg of their victorious 2014 Asian Champions League final.

The 28-year-old center back was head-butted by Al-Hilal’s Nasser Al-Shamrani in the second half of the scoreless draw and also spat at by the striker after the final whistle as the Australian side claimed a 1-0 aggregate victory.

Al-Shamrani, who was given an eight-match ban for the behavior, has been recalled to the Saudi Arabia team for the match at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.

"I’ve never played in front of such a crowd," China-based Spiranovic told Australian media in Jeddah. "It was surreal, just a sea of blue and white, very loud, hostile, not friendly at all.

"It was packed to the rafters, 65,000 screaming men, basically."

But defender Ryan McGowan said the Socceroos can deal with the pressure of a packed-out Saudi crowd.

"If you look at where most of the boys play, we are playing in front of big crowds and intimidating crowds every single week," he told the Socceroos website. "We enjoy that, we embrace it and it’s better for us to play in stadiums that are packed and hostile than playing in front of no one."

Victory for the Socceroos would go a long way to securing their passage to a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance at Russia in 2018.

The Green Falcons are bidding for their first World Cup appearance since the 2006 tournament in Germany.

The top two in each of the six-strong Groups A and B will book their places in Russia, while the two third-placed teams head into a playoff series.

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