Former Socceroos Ned Zelic watches footage of his famous goal against Holland. Photo: Jamila Toderas Ned Zelic returned to Erindale College on Monday for the sport stars of the year awards. Isaac Dean, Georgia Bass and the college’s rugby league team took out the top gongs. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Australian soccer star Ned Zelic thinks the Asian Cup is Japan’s to lose and that pressure puts the Socceroos in a strong position to claim the title for the first time.
While Zelic saw positives for the Aussies, he wasn’t so upbeat about fellow Canberran Carl Valeri’s hopes of breaking into the Socceroos squad for the tournament in Australia in January as he felt coach Ange Postecoglou was looking at other options.
Zelic was back at his old school, Erindale College, for its annual sports awards on Monday, where he relived his wonder goal against Holland that qualified the Olyroos for the 1992 Olympic Games.
He said the Socceroos had the ability to win the Asian Cup, but felt making the semi-finals was a more realistic goal.
Australia lost a friendly 2-1 to Japan last week, which Zelic said made the reigning Asian Cup champions the favourite to go back-to-back.
But he said that favouritism brought extra pressure.
“I think [Australia] can win it, but being realistic now I think getting into the semi-finals that is realistic and what happens from then on, who knows,” Zelic said.
“I’m not at the point where I can say we’re going to win the tournament.
“We can, we have the ability and the quality to do so, but there’s a lot of things that have to fall into place.
“I don’t think we have that real pressure on us going into the tournament, because people have seen we’ve struggled.
“I think it’s not a bad position to be in, I think all the pressure is on Japan.”
Valeri has reignited his career with A-League club Melbourne Victory this season after an ankle injury forced him out for more than a year.
Despite having 52 Socceroos caps, Zelic felt his omission against Japan was an indication for the Asian Cup.
But he said Valeri had proved himself on the world stage and was someone Postecoglou could turn to.
“I think Ange is looking more towards younger players now,” Zelic said.
“Carl’s been there, played at the World Cup as well, I think Ange is looking beyond.
“The fact that Carl wasn’t involved in Japan – you can’t rule him out completely, a lot of things could happen – but if you’re being realistic about it I think it’s going to be tough for him to get in.
“Carl’s shown that he can perform for the Socceroos.
“You’ve got some players that do well at club level, but struggle internationally. I think Carl’s a different case.
“He’s got the experience overseas and is always someone that you can turn to and know that he’ll go out and do a solid job for you.
“But I’m just looking at it from Ange’s point of view and the fact that he hasn’t been involved now.”
Erindale’s top gongs went to martial artist Isaac Dean, snowboarder Georgia Bass and its senior rugby league team.
CANBERRA’S ASIAN CUP GAMES
South Korea v Oman, January 10 4pm
UAE v Qatar, January 11 6pm
Kuwait v South Korea, January 13 6pm
Bahrain v UAE, January 15 6pm
China v North Korea, January 18 8pm
Iraq v Palestine, January 20 8pm
Quarter-final, January 23 5.30pm