Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

TOON FACE VID BATTLE; Aussies Want Striker for World Cup Clash Magpies Eager to Keep Star for Crucial Run-In

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

TOON FACE VID BATTLE; Aussies Want Striker for World Cup Clash Magpies Eager to Keep Star for Crucial Run-In

Article excerpt

Byline: By STUART RAYNER

NEWCASTLE United may face the difficult task of persuading a player they will axe this summer to choose them over his country next month.

Despite having started just one game all season, Mark Viduka is set for an international recall - if the Australian can prove his suspect fitness.

The 33-year-old striker failed to make the bench for Wednesday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.

But the Achilles problem which kept him out was described as a minor niggle.

That got Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek dreaming again of selecting Viduka for the first time.

The Aussies host Uzbekistan in a World Cup qualifier on April Fool's Day.

But if Viduka plays it will be no joke for the Magpies, with Chelsea at St James's Park three days later.

Australia top their Asian qualifying group, and with two teams reaching South Africa, it would be a major surprise if they did not make it.

But Verbeek has identified two big problems recently: a lack of strikers and a shortage of experience.

Viduka would solve both.

The Socceroos lost 1-0 to lowly Kuwait in Thursday's Asian Cup qualifier.

Their Dutch coach blamed naive defending and trying too hard to get back into the game after Mesaed Alenza's 37thminute opener.

"In the second half we played more with our heart and not enough with our head, which is understandable because we have some young players," Verbeek said.

Viduka is one of Australia's most experienced players with 43 caps, but none since the 2007 Asia Cup.

"The striking role's not been easy to fill with Mark Viduka not playing," said Verbeek. "Is he likely to come back for the Uzbekistan game?

"I really, really hope so. If Viduka shows me he is still the same player we know, there's no reason not to select him.

"So far he has never given me the idea that he's not interested anymore. …

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