Australia defender Sasa Ognenovski says the intensity of Qatar’s Stars League will be enough to keep him fit for the Socceroos on the road to Rio 2014.
Ognenovski, who has a one-year deal at Umm Salal, has been impressed by what he has seen ahead of the competition kick-off in September.
The defender has been playing in pre-season cup competition since his arrival at the club and said he will be fit and hungry for the friendly against Scotland at Edinburgh’s Easter Road on 16 August.
"The quality of the players I’ve seen at Umm Salal has surprised me a little and also the intensity of the training is there, despite the heat," Ognenovski said.
"I don’t think I will lose anything by coming here at all. There is genuine quality here. In this region you have Qatar and Saudi Arabia where the standard of the football is a level up from the UAE.
"When making a choice, Qatar wins out over Saudi Arabia on the lifestyle factor. It's better for the family. Here women can drive and you don't necessarily have to live in a compound.
"It's good to have Bresc (Mark Bresciano) and Matt (Spiranovic) both here also. We are all based in Doha and the fact they are here shows this league has something to offer in terms of its level.
“The games are slower because of the conditions, which are pretty demanding. As a result of that the tempo of games is slower.
"Technically, the players are talented and I don’t see it as a major step down at all. I will play fewer games than I did in the K-league and that will be easier on the body and hopefully prolong my career.
"The aim for me is to stay in the best possible condition looking ahead at qualifying Brazil and I feel I can do that here."
Having left Seongnam, where he became an Asian Player of the Year and an AFC Champions league winner, the 33-year-old says he has lost none of his match-conditioning as he prepares to partner fellow veteran Lucas Neill against Scotland.
"I'm feeling as sharp as ever and fitness will be no issue at all against Scotland," Ognenovski said. "I am really looking forward to it. It’s important preparation for next month’s World Cup qualifier against Jordan and I think it’s important that we get our best team on the park against the Scots."
Having finished second bottom last season, Umm Salal, which made the AFC Champions League semi-final stage in 2009, sees Ognenovski as a solution to its problems in defence.
"We have aspirations to finish far higher than last season and, of course, I will be expected to play my part in achieving that," Ognenovski said.
"We have strengthened across the park with a couple of other foreign players and couple of Qatari signings and the intention is clear, the club is expecting a big season.
"My contract is just for one season at this stage but I will see how things go and look at things beyond that as the season unfolds."
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