Australia striker Mitchell Duke is expecting a highly motivated Palestine to present a major obstacle to the Socceroos’ quest for back-to-back victories in Asia’s preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup when they take on Makram Daboub’s side on Tuesday.
The game, originally slated as a home fixture for Palestine, will be played in Kuwait’s Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium as a result of the Israel-Gaza conflict, with the Palestinians looking to build on an opening draw against Lebanon on Thursday.
“It’s going to be an emotional game – they are going to be up for it,” said Duke, who scored twice for Australia in a 7-0 thrashing of Bangladesh in Melbourne in their first game in the second round of Asia’s World Cup preliminaries.
“The challenges are going to be strong. Physically it will be a tough game and intensity will be high. We need to be prepared for that mentally and physically, which I know we will be.”
It will be important to not “get caught up in anything, if people try to rile you up, stay composed and focused on the job at hand,” Duke said.
Graham Arnold’s squad left Melbourne to travel to Kuwait on Saturday and are preparing to face a partisan crowd despite the game being played on neutral territory, with many Palestinian expatriates expected to turn out to back their team.
“You always love a good atmosphere, it will probably be a little bit hostile and they will create as much of a home advantage as they can,” Duke said.
“But a lot of the boys have experienced that before; for those who haven’t, it will be a great learning experience.”
Central defender Harry Souttar said he and his team mates would be focused solely on the game despite the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza.
“We know what’s going on – it’s horrendous for both sides,” the Leicester City centre half said.
“I’m not going to stand here and give a political view. All I can say is that we will be going in focusing purely on the game and nothing else.
“We know they are going to be right up for it and playing for a lot more than just football.”