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Etihad’s pitch ‘right on the money’ for Socceroos

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After Ange Postecoglou slammed ANZ Stadium’s surface earlier this month, FFA has made pitch quality a key consideration for Socceroos games

The quality of the pitch on offer was a key consideration in Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) decision to take the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Japan to Etihad Stadium.

With the MCG set to host the AFL Grand final less than two weeks prior to the Socceroos’ match, plus NRL finals set to dominate Sydney and Brisbane’s major venues, Etihad Stadium was arguably the largest stadium in Australia that could provide a pitch Ange Postecoglou would be happy with.

The Docklands-based venue last scheduled AFL match is on August 27 – barring any finals responsibilities – 45 days before the Socceroos’ vital qualifier against archrivals Japan.

Following Australia’s friendly against Greece at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium earlier this month, Socceroos coach Postecoglou declared he was “embarrassed” by the state of the pitch.

“We did want to make sure that the surface was the best that we could find,” FFA CEO David Gallop said on Wednesday.

“We recently played here [at Etihad Stadium] against Greece and we were happy with the surface. I think we all know there are challenges around the country with playing surfaces but we fully expect Etihad [Stadium] to be right on the money for us when we play here on October 11.

“Not many games in the lead-up of other sports, so plenty of chance to make sure the pitch is good quality.”

While the Socceroos’ second home game on the road to Russia 2018 will be held just four days prior to the opening Melbourne derby of the 2016-17 A-League season, Gallop insisted both games will draw strong crowds as FFA looks to start the new campaign “with a bang”.

Both Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City will play away from home in Round 1, making October 15’s derby the first time they will play in Victoria’s capital next season.

“Melbourne derbies are huge. Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City fans will be keen to get out and see their teams in the early weeks of the A-League season, so we’re confident the two fixtures will work together nicely,” Gallop said.

The Socceroos will start the next phase of World Cup qualifying at Perth’s nib Stadium on September 1, with Australia’s other home matches against United Arab Emirates (March 28) Saudi Arabia (June 8) and Thailand (September 5) yet to be allocated venues.

© 2016 Goal | This article was written by Michael Huguenin and first appeared on the Goal website on 29 June 2016.

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