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Martin Boyle drawing on Saudi experience to help Australia overcome UAE in World Cup showdown

As Saudi-based Socceroo Martin Boyle prepares for Tuesday night’s do-or-die World Cup playoff clash with the UAE on what is forecast to be a sweltering 41 degrees Celsius day in Doha, he’s preparing to offer a rather odd piece of advice for his father – bring a jacket.

This week’s clash in the Qatari capital is at the 50,000-capacity Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, one of the many glistening new stadiums built for the upcoming FIFA World Cup with leading air-conditioning technology.

Boyle sat out last week’s warm-up against Jordan, having only just arrived in camp from his Saudi club Al-Faisaly, and felt first-hand just how effective the air-conditioning was.

“I was sitting in the stand the other day, and it was freezing,” 29-year-old Boyle told Arab News from the Socceroos camp in Doha. “So I’m sure when my Dad comes along, I’ll have to tell him to bring a jacket to a country that he probably doesn’t even need.”

While conditions inside the stadium on match day will be more than comfortable for the players, there is still the matter of day-to-day life and training for the players in the lead up to the game, and Boyle believes the experience of almost six months playing in Saudi Arabia has prepared him well for what he hopes will be a successful fortnight for him and the Socceroos, who will face Peru in the ultimate decider should they get past the UAE.

“Yeah, personally, I definitely think it’s helped me,” the former Hibernian winger said. “I remember when I played in Scotland, I was coming in and I was doing the warm-ups and the heat was getting me, I was coming off the bus and I was sweating before training and stuff like that.

“And now, I feel like because we’re playing in 30-35 degree heat and training every day, it’s certainly helped me. I’m not getting fatigued as easily and not needing to hydrate as much. Obviously, you do need to hydrate but I’m not feeling it. I’m feeling much better about myself.”

While the circumstances are different, with this being a one-off match at a neutral venue as opposed to a two-legged home and away tie as has been custom in the past, Boyle feels the experience Australia gained – even if he wasn’t part of the set up at the time – from going through the playoffs four years ago will stand them in good stead ahead of the clash with the UAE.

“Experience is everything in the game nowadays,” Boyle explained. “I think you need that. They’ve (his teammates) been through it, they’ve played in the game and they’ve qualified, and you hear all the stories of what it meant to them, how unbelievable it was, and representing our country at the World Cup.

“I think because we’ve got a lot of younger players, and players that haven’t experienced that, they can definitely share their memories. I see the experience of that group and the stories that they can share and I think it’s vital.”

Boyle, born and raised in Scotland, qualifies to play for Australia as his father Graeme was born in Sydney. Called up by Graham Arnold for this qualifying campaign, the winger has been something of a revelation, scoring three goals along the way and proving to be one of the most consistent players in Arnold’s squad.

And he knows how important this week is, not just for him but for the team.

“These games coming up, this is where you can definitely make yourself a legend and put your name in the books,” he said. “Qualifying for a World Cup, there’s a lot of people in this team that have done it. To see yourself there and make your family proud and the nation proud – that’s exactly where I want to be.”

His form for the Socceroos helped him earn a move in January to Al-Faisaly as they looked ahead to their AFC Champions League commitments.

Drawn alongside Qatari giants Al-Sadd, as well as Uzbekistan’s Nasaf and Jordan’s Al-Wehdat, not many expected Al-Annabi to progress past the group stage in their first appearance in the continental competition.

But they stunned their more fancied opposition, losing just once and topping the group, even beating the star-studded Al-Sadd along the way.

It was an experience Boyle cherished, finding the back of the net in an important 1-1 draw with Al-Wehdat.

“We played against some good teams,” he said. We played against Al-Sadd, and they had Santi Cazorla and stuff, so that was a great experience to be able to share the field with him and we managed to beat them and we managed to qualify, which is historic for the club.”

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