(Reuters) - Australia defender Matthew Spiranovic has warned his team mates to expect a “hostile” reception when the Socceroos take on Saudi Arabia in their Asian section World Cup qualifier in Jeddah on Thursday.
Australia lead Group B on goal difference from the Saudis, with both teams boasting 100 percent records after two games.
Spiranovic had a bruising experience on his last trip to the kingdom, when Western Sydney Wanderers faced Saudi club Al-Hilal in Riyadh in the second leg of their victorious 2014 Asian Champions League final.
The 28-year-old centre back was head-butted by Al-Hilal’s Nasser Al-Shamrani in the second half of the scoreless draw and also spat at by the volatile striker after the final whistle as the Australian side claimed a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Al-Shamrani, who was given an eight-match ban for the behaviour, has been recalled to the Saudi Arabia team for the match at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.
“I’ve never played in front of such a crowd,” China-based Spiranovic told Australian media in Jeddah.
”It was surreal, just a sea of blue and white, very loud, hostile, not friendly at all.
”It was a pretty smooth leadup until the game, although everyone’s Instagram account was abused. All the Al-Hilal fans were giving it to us.
“It was packed to the rafters, 65,000 screaming men, basically. It was insane.”
Victory for the Socceroos would go a long way to securing their passage to a fourth consecutive World Cup appearance at Russia in 2018.
The Green Falcons are bidding for their first World Cup appearance since the 2006 tournament in Germany.
Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien