Socceroos hang tough as FIFA refuses to move Dhaka duel

Australia and Bangladesh players compete during a World Cup qualifier in Perth in September Source: AFP

FIFA appears determined to ignore Australia’s pleas for the World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in Dhaka to be switched to a neutral venue, amid pledges by Socceroos stars to play wherever they are told is safe.

A final decision on whether the fixture – scheduled for 17 November – will go ahead in the Bangladeshi capital, as planned, will likely be made on Saturday at a hastily convened security summit.

A designated FIFA security expert will meet with a delegation from the football associations of both nations to assess the level of risk and the measures put in place to protect the Socceroos' players and support staff from a lurking terrorist threat.

The summit comes against a backdrop of official travel advice to Australians citing "reliable information" which suggests "militants may be planning to target Australian and Western interests".

Last month, a Japanese national and an Italian citizen were slain in separate attacks attributed to followers of the militant group IS.

But on Friday, FIFA showed no sign of yielding to FFA's on-going concerns, with a spokesperson stating: “At the request of FIFA, the Bangladesh Football Federation has provided the match security plan as well as the corresponding security guarantees ahead of the match.

"In addition, FIFA has appointed a security officer for the match.”

With Australia trailing Group B leader Jordan by four points at the halfway stage of qualifying for the second phase on the road to Russia 2018, FFA is all too aware that forfeiting the match would leave the Socceroos struggling to qualify as one of the best placed runners-up.

The squad, meanwhile, appears united in its commitment to act as one and follow whatever edicts are deemed suitable and safe by the authorities.

“From what I've heard it's not the ideal place to go and play," said key midfielder Massimo Luongo.

"But the places that we have been to previously (he played in both Tajikistan and Jordan), the security has almost been too much in terms of what's provided for us.

“I am sure, if we play there, it will be dealt with effectively and there won’t be too much to worry about. Obviously, it does play on your mind a little but but we have to get on with it … no matter what the outcome.

“I think the authorities will deal with it, if they say we have to play there they will do the right things to get us well protected. I won’t lose sleep put over it ... the decision is out of our hands.

"It's a game we just want to win and close the gap on Jordan, regardless of where we play."

Though the Australian Government does not preclude travel to Bangladesh, its warnings led to the Australian cricket team cancelling its tour there.

Last month Saudi Arabia declined to play Palestine on the West Bank due to continuing unrest there with FIFA reluctantly switching the fixture to a neutral venue, as it has done with Palestine's game against Malaysia.

“Obviously there’s been some uncertainty on where the game will be played and whether it's safe to play there," said defender Bailey Wright of the Bangledish clash.

“I am sure if FFA allows it to go ahead, they will make sure it's safe for us. Our focus is to go there and win,
 everything else is beyond our control.

“First and foremost you need to make sure where you are playing is safe because you want to enjoy your football.

“If the authorities aren't confident they will move it. We will know more in the coming days and go from there.”

Wright doesn’t foresee a scenario whereby one or more players might drop out, while others are prepared to play.

“We have a strong group of boys and we are all in this for the same reasons: we want to do well for our country, and love playing for our country.

“And when the opportunity comes I can’t imagine they’d be anybody who would turn it down.”