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Farina warns of New Zealand danger in World Cup qualifier

© Reuters Limited 2001

SYDNEY, June 22 (Reuters) - Australia coach Frank Farina says New Zealand will be dangerous opponents with "nothing to lose" in Sunday's Oceania World Cup playoff in Sydney. Australia won the first leg 2-0 in Wellington on Wednesday and are expected to come through comfortably against their neighbours, advancing to a clash with the fifth-ranked South American team for a place in next year's World Cup. But Farina told a news conference: "In this game things can go pear-shaped very quickly. "New Zealand has everything to gain and nothing to lose - that is a dangerous sort of recipe."

Australia, without two of their key players, Leeds United pair Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, finished an impressive third at the Confederations Cup in South Korea this month. Australia scored victories over Brazil and world champions France and rose in the FIFA rankings from 68 to 50. Kewell and Viduka are also absent from the Oceania playoffs while Farina must consider yellow cards from Wednesday's game to defender Tony Popovic and midfielder Josip Skoko in juggling his line-up for Sunday. Guarding against overconfidence, Australia's vice-captain Kevin Muscat said it was a "massive game for us.

"We are only 2-0 up, anything can happen," Muscat said. Trailing 1-0 at halftime, New Zealand showed they were not overawed by the occasion or the opposition in Wellington. However, a blunder by goalkeeper Jason Batty allowed Australia's Dutch-based striker Brett Emerton to head home his second goal of the game in the 82nd minute. "For all their dominance in the second half, I was never particularly concerned," Farina said. "They had a few half chances, snaps at goal, but not a one-on-one with (goalkeeper) Mark Schwarzer, or anything like that." New Zealand need to score at least twice to send the game into extra time.

Farina and Muscat both needed no reminding of Australia's heartbreak of 1997 when they fell at the last hurdle of their World Cup qualifying campaign. Firing early and buoyed by a home crowd of 85,000 at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia lost their way, allowing Iran to score in the 77th and 80th minutes to claim the 32nd and last place in France 98.

Any concentration lapse against New Zealand on Sunday could cause Australia's exit even before reaching that final qualifying stage later this year. "I think everyone's suffered enough," Muscat said. "I don't think we need to keep bringing the Iran thing up. "Obviously everyone's got it firmly set in their memories."

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