Australia concerned about World Cup match dates

Football Federation Australia is concerned that the Socceroo's bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup could be over before it begins if they are forced to follow a horror schedule of matches drawn up by the Asian Football Confederation. According to David Lewis of the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), FFA "is so concerned at a 12-game fixture list for 2008 and 2009 - including the logistical nightmare of eight midweek dates – that it is poised to deploy chairman Frank Lowy to lobby the AFC for a calendar rethink."

The schedule leaves the Socceroos' European-based stars with, in some cases, as little as 24 hours to prepare for games in East Asia or back on home soil, and only slightly more than that for matches in the West Asia. Australia must negotiate stage one of qualification for South Africa 2010 with three home and three away games against opposition yet to be determined between February and November 2008.

Caretaker coach Graham Arnold has presented a dossier to the FFA containing several possible solutions, the detail of which he wants to keep under wraps. "I've tried to be proactive by identifying these issues with two years to spare," Arnold said. "There was a method to my madness in August when I had 10-days with a group of A-League players to prepare for the game against Kuwait (which Australia won 2-0). I then picked a side of European-based players to see how they would cope with virtually no preparation. It was a dress rehearsal of what lies ahead in 2008."

All of the proposed dates that year are FIFA double dates, which will leave at least three days of preparation time for the matches. Lowy is considering lobbying the AFC to to switch as many as possible of the midweek games to Saturdays, allowing some more leeway. The aim is also to make the most of the two double dates in 2008 and the five in 2009 by playing two games in four days.