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Monday, June 26, 2006

Socceroos drop goalkeeper Kalac, Kewell doubtful

By Reuters

Australia have dropped goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac while forward Harry Kewell is struggling to be fit for tomorrow morning's FIFA World Cup™ second round clash with Italy in Kaiserslautern.

Australia coach Guus Hiddink said he had still not decided on his starting lineup for the match but confirmed that Kalac would make way for Mark Schwarzer in goal.

Kalac took Schwarzer's place for the final Group F match against Croatia on Thursday, which ended 2-2.

However, he made a serious blunder that almost cost the Socceroos a place in the second round, fumbling an innocuous low drive from Croatia captain Niko Kovac into his own net.

Kewell's late equaliser saved Kalac from further humiliation but Hiddink got straight to the point when asked whether he had lost his place to Schwarzer for the Italy match.

"Normally I don't give a lineup (in advance) but yes," he told a news conference yesterday.

Australia skipper Mark Viduka said he was sad for Kalac, nicknamed Spider, but understood why he had been left out.

"Spider's part of our family here and obviously he'll be very upset," Viduka said. "Nobody wants things like that to happen to them but I think he's alright, he's a tough nut."

Hiddink confirmed that Kewell was still struggling with a niggling groin injury that almost forced him to miss the tournament.

He was named Man of the Match after running himself to a standstill against Croatia but the effort took its toll. Kewell has been unable to train since and has been receiving round the clock treatment in the hope of playing Italy.

"Harry did not participate fully in training with the team today," Hiddink said. "We'll see how this situation is tomorrow. It will be the same procedure as before the Croatia game."

Viduka said the Australians were unlikely to know whether Kewell was available or not until just before tomorrow morning's match.

"How much concern is there? I don't know. We just have to wait and see how the situation unfolds," said the striker.

"Obviously, Harry's a very important player for us and we want him to be 100 per cent fit."

Australia have also got a problem trying to find a replacement for defensive midfielder Brett Emerton, who is suspended after being sent off against Croatia.

"We have to deal with that and try and find a solution," Hiddink said. "He's one of the fittest players in this World Cup and it's very difficult to replace him."



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