Guardian sport on 19 January 2018
The Socceroos’ preparations for the 2018 World Cup will take in a friendly match in the familiar surrounds of Craven Cottage against Colombia on 27 March, four days after they play Norway in Oslo in what is expected to be the still-to-be-appointed national team coach’s first game in charge.
With Football Federation Australia this week confirming they aim to announce Ange Postecoglou’s successor by February, the two games will provide the successful candidate a chance to run the rule over his players, three months out from the side’s fourth straight World Cup appearance.
Colombia, ranked 13 in the world and drawn in a group with Japan, Poland and Senegal at June’s tournament in Russia, are expected to provide a stern test for Australia, with the likes of James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao in their ranks and having qualified fourth from the Conmebol region behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
FFA chief executive David Gallop said: “We are excited to have secured the match against Colombia, which offers us a good challenge against strong South American opposition leading into the Fifa World Cup.”
The venue in west London, home to Championship club Fulham, will provide the Socceroos with as near a home-ground experience as possible on the other side of the world, given the sizeable Australian expat population in that part of the English capital.
The Socceroos have a good recent record at Craven Cottage, having beaten Canada 3-0 in 2013, Nigeria 1-0 in 2008 and South Africa 5-0 in 2005 there. They have played Colombia three times, all in friendlies, losing twice (1-0 in Sydney in 1995 and 3-2 in Bogata in 2001) and drawing once (0-0 in Brisbane, also in 1995).
The new coach will take his bow in Oslo on 23 March at the Ullevaal Stadion in the first meeting between the two teams since 2004, when Tim Cahill and Josip Skoko were on target in a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage.