Oceania teams are catching up - Farina

Oceanian football is currently lorded over by Australia and New Zealand. The latter contested the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 and the former made the play-offs for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/JapanTM before falling to two-time world champions Uruguay at the final hurdle.
Both countries now enjoy automatic qualification for the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers where they will take on the winners and runners-up of the two first round groups from the initial Oceania Zone preliminaries.

FIFAworldcup.com quizzed Australian national team coach Frank Farina on the situation shaping up in Oceania for the Socceroos.

FIFAworldcup.com: The Australia U23 team have qualified for the Athens Olympics. How significant is that for your 2006 qualifying campaign?
Frank Farina: The Olympic team is totally different from the national team as it's our U-23 squad. However, we have a lot of good young players in that team, who I hope will join the national A squad in the next few years.

Will the Oceania qualifying competition be settled yet again between Australia and New Zealand?
Several Oceania teams have caught up in the last few years. Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Tahiti have improved a lot, and I would rate Vanuatu as the number three team in Oceania at the moment. They have had some good results recently and are playing well. Obviously, Australia and New Zealand are the hot favourites again, but four other Oceania teams will compete with us for a place in the finals.

How do you rate New Zealand this time around?
Our games against New Zealand are always interesting and the New Zealanders are tough opponents. They took part in the Confederations Cup last year in France, so that should help them.

What changes have there been in the Australian side since four years ago?
We have a good number of young players coming up, but compared to the last qualifying competition there will be no major changes in the line-up. We have some very experienced players in the squad who also play in the European leagues, like Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell in England. But we also have a host of good young players who could strengthen the team in the next few years.


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