Preview: Bahrain vs. Australia

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Sports Mole previews Saturday’s friendly clash between Bahrain and Australia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

In preparation for the Asian Cup, which begins later this month, Bahrain and Australia will battle in a friendly on Saturday at Baniyas Stadium in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Bahrainis lost their final encounter of 2023, 2-0, versus the UAE, while the Socceroos ended the year with three successive triumphs, defeating Palestine in November 1-0.

Match preview
© Reuters

On the job for just a few months, Juan Antonio Pizzi has begun his tenure as Bahrain manager well, suffering just one defeat since taking charge.

Bahrain is the third national team that he has coached, after guiding Chile to the 2016 Copa America but failing to make it beyond the last 16 of the 2019 Asian Cup while in charge of Saudi Arabia.

His expectations may not be as high with Bahrain as they were with the Green Falcons at the previous Asian Cup, but in a group with South Korea, Jordan and Malaysia, they will expect to make it to the last 16 at the very least, seeing as the Koreans are the only one of those three opponents currently above them in the FIFA rankings.

Despite losing their previous 2026 World Cup qualification fixture versus the UAE, they are still in a position to make the third round of the Asian qualifying campaign for the sixth successive occasion.

While they ended 2023 on a losing note, the Bahrainis have yet to lose successive international encounters since September 2022 (two).

Bahrain have never beaten the Socceroos in their five previous meetings, suffering a 1-0 defeat the last time around at the 2011 Asian Cup.

© Reuters

The Aussies enter 2024 full of confidence, fresh off successive victories in November, putting them at the top of their second-round World Cup qualifying group with a 2-0 record and without a goal conceded.

After an impressive 2022 World Cup campaign in which the Socceroos made the knockout stage for only the second time in their history, the first half of 2023 was rough, with Australia losing three of their first five international fixtures.

However, Graham Arnold’s men pulled it together in the fall of 2023, earning a positive result in four of five matches in all competitions from September to November, without a goal conceded in their last three encounters.

They are up the 25th in the latest FIFA rankings and will fancy their chances to make a run at the Asian Cup later this month, seeing as they are the third-highest seeded team in the region, and playing in a group featuring India, Syria and Uzbekistan, all of whom are at least 40 places behind them according to the latest rankings.

Since losing 1-0 versus Saudi Arabia in a March 2022 World Cup qualifier, the Socceroos have won their last four competitive games versus Asian opponents, outscoring them by a combined margin of 10-1 over that stretch.

Australia boasts an all-time 100% record versus Bahrain, conceding only once in their five previous encounters against them (3-1 win at the 2006 Asian Cup).

Bahrain friendly form:

Bahrain form (all competitions):

Australia friendly form:

Australia form (all competitions):

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Team News
© Reuters

There is only one player chosen for this encounter who has yet to feature internationally for Bahrain, Hussain Al-Eker, who plays locally with Al-Riffa, while Ali Hassan Isa, Mohammed Abdul Qayoom, Abdulkarim Fardan and Ibrahim Al-Wali all have one cap, the latter of whom collected his first in the defeat to the UAE.

Kamil Al-Aswad needs eight more caps to reach the century mark, Waleed Al Hayam is at 101 after their previous encounter, while goalkeeper Sayed Mohammed Jaffer is 10 behind Mohamed Husain for the most in the history of the national team, currently at 151.

Mohamed Marhoon can move into eighth regarding all-time goals for Bahrain, with the Al-Riffa midfielder currently tied with Mahmood Abdulrahman, having netted 13 times internationally, one ahead of his teammate Kamil Al-Aswad.

John Iredale, Patrick Yazbek and Gethin Jones wil each be seeking their first caps with the Socceroos, while Kusini Yengi made his first appearance for the senior squad in 2026 World Cup qualifying, replacing Brandon Borello in their victory over Bangladesh (7-0).

Goalkeeper Matthew Ryan can draw even with former defender Alex Tobin for the fifth-most caps all-time with the Socceroos, with the Alkmaar Zaanstreek shot-stopper currently at 86 appearances, while Jackson Irvine reached 20 in their victory over Palestine.

Harry Souttar has scored the winning goal for the Aussies in each of their previous three competitive fixtures, as he and Borello found the back of the net in their emphatic triumph versus Bangladesh, with Jamie Maclaren notching a hat-trick and Mitchell Duke scoring a brace in that encounter.

Bahrain possible starting lineup:
Jaffer; Adel, Al Hayam, Baqer, Bughammar; Abdulwahab, Al-Hardan; Marhoon, Al-Aswad, Madan; Al-Hashsash

Australia possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Atkinson, Souttar, Rowles, Behich; O’Neill, Irvine; Boyle, Metcalfe, McGree; Duke

We say: Bahrain 0-1 Australia
With the Asian Cup just around the corner and both teams eyeing a spot in the knockout stage of that tournament, we expect this to be a cagey affair, as neither want to risk having a key player suffer an injury.

We are giving the Socceroos the edge in this encounter though, because of the strong continuity built within this group and their solid form versus Asian opposition.

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