Harry Kewell is as frustrated as all of Australia that he hasn’t kicked a ball at the World Cup, but refuses to blame the manager who has glued his backside to the bench.
A feisty Kewell says he is raring to go and capable of playing the full 90 minutes in Saturday’s must-win showdown against Ghana.
Yet doubts persist that beleaguered coach Pim Verbeek will start Australia’s finest talent in Rustenburg, and some wonder if Kewell might again watch helplessly from the bench as he did in last weekend’s 4-0 drubbing by Germany.
“Of course I was disappointed (not to play against Germany) but it was the manager’s choice,” Kewell said as the Socceroos resumed training at Ruimsig, on Johannesburg’s western outskirts.
“He had a plan, he stuck to it and we all agreed to it.
“It’s his decision and I fully support him.
“He is the boss, and at the end of the day you do what your boss says.
“People have to get it into their thick heads that it’s his rules. You accept that.
“We all want to play but we all can’t play.”
It was one thing for Verbeek not to play Kewell in any of Australia’s three World Cup warm-up matches, as he nursed the 31-year-old star back from a persistent groin injury.
But fans were stunned when Verbeek kept Kewell and Josh Kennedy on the bench for the whole match against Germany, opting instead to throw the almost wholly untried Richard Garcia up front.
With Australia needing a win against Ghana, and midfield goal-poacher Tim Cahill suspended, the time is over-ripe for Kewell to enter the fray.
Kewell said there were no doubts at all about his fitness.
“I’m as fit as I can be,” the animated attacker said.
Asked if he could last the entire 90 minutes against Ghana, he replied: “If I have to. That’s what I am here for. I have been training (with the World Cup squad) for four weeks now, and I feel good.”
Kewell is upbeat about Australia’s chances.
He concedes the Socceroos were “destroyed” by Philipp Lahm’s magnificent young German team in Durban.
But he said: “Anything can happen at the World Cup.
“There are still two games to go (in the group stage) and we can win them.”
Verbeek says he didn’t take Kewell to South Africa for a holiday, but many are wondering if that’s the way it will pan out.
Senior Socceroos like Scott Chipperfield expect Verbeek to make further changes after the poor performance against Germany.
“All spots are under pressure,” Chipperfield said.
“I don’t think anyone can put their hand up and say they were happy with the performance.”
Chipperfield said Germany’s midfield ran riot to the extent that he sometimes had two or three runners to contend with at left-back.
“It makes you look bad, but there’s not much you can do about it,” he said.