Robbie Kruse believes Australia faces a must-win contest against Iraq next month as it seeks to keep alive its hopes of automatic qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Fortuna Dusseldorf attacker is still having nightmares over the limp 2-1 loss to Jordan in Amman last week – and while he has been thriving at club level he admits to being as culpable as any for the costly Socceroos defeat.
With just two points from three qualification games – and third place on the ladder behind Japan and Jordan – Australia cannot afford another aberration against bogey-side Iraq in Doha on mid-October.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure put on the players and the rest of the coaching staff and we're going to have to really stick together and turn it all around," Kruse told The World Game.</p><p>
"We have some big game players with big game experience and that's going to come in handy against Iraq.
"There's been plenty of criticism and we realise our performance against Jordan wasn't good enough.
"The boss and the players are extremely angry with how we went and know we need to do a lot better.
"It's almost a must-win for us now and we can't afford any more slips before we go into a run of home games."
Though Australia has managed just two goals in three qualifiers, Kruse is convinced that Brazil remains far more than a mirage as the Socceroos chase a third successive World Cup finals appearance.
"We still have some wonderful attacking players and we created enough chances against Jordan to have won the game. I was guilty of missing one great chance to get us a draw," Kruse said.
"We don't want to make excuses. It's all about results and we didn't deliver against Jordan.
"But it's a long qualifying process and we have to focus on the next match, which is now a massive one for us.
"Hopefully we can bring some form into that one. Hopefully all our boys will be playing regularly at their clubs heading into the game. We need everybody to be at their best.
"Holger was really unhappy after the Jordan game. We just didn't produce what we set us up to do and that's obviously a concern.
"They pressed us and we just didn't cope with it. We deserved the criticism we got. We are all experienced players and we are ultimately our own biggest critics."
Kruse, who played the full 90 minutes as Fortuna Dusseldorf drew 0-0 away to Stuttgart at the weekend, has been in fine form as the club has picked up five points from its opening three Bundesliga games.
"Things have started really well for this season," he said.
"The first season was tough. It took me time to adjust to a different culture but I am feeling at home now.
"I had a strong pre-season and it's probably surprised a few people that I've been starting in the Bundesliga but I couldn't be happier.
"My role on the right involves a lot of work up and down and my fitness is at a career high.
"The way we've been playing in the Bundesliga has been a big bonus.
"Defensively we've been excellent. We haven't conceded a goal yet and we've been creating chances and probably should have won at Stuttgart.
"There’s a big buzz around the club right now – and hopefully that will continue."
Mile Jedinak has skippered Crystal Palace to within touching distance of the Premier League – now he is dreaming of captaining his country.