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 By AAP

Australia announce World Cup warm-up match vs. Norway in March

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts evaluate Australia's World Cup group and assess whether they or any other Asian teams can progress.
The FC crew explain why Australia's outlook at the World Cup is dreary after being drawn with France, Peru and Denmark.
ESPN's Julien Laurens believes France will be very happy after drawing Australia, Peru and Denmark.

Australia's first opponent of its World Cup year has been confirmed, with an away friendly against Norway locked in for March.

The Socceroos will face the world No. 59-ranked side at Oslo's Ullevaal Stadion on March 23 (March 24 AEDT).

The Norwegians won't feature in Russia, but will give the Socceroos a run-out against a Scandinavian opponent before they play Denmark at the June tournament.

Australia also faces top seed France and Peru in a challenging group stage.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said Norway would be a formidable foe, given their strong home record.

"For the March window we identified the need to play friendlies in Europe where the bulk of our players are based to minimise the travel demand on the players selected, as well as their clubs," Gallop said.

"Throughout the qualification process our players had a heavy travel and match schedule, so playing in Europe will lighten their loads leading up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup."

The match will be one of up to five friendlies to feature Australia leading up to the World Cup.

A second match will be teed up in Europe for the March international window -- reportedly against Colombia.

A fixture against a South American side has been targeted by FFA executives given last month's draw pitted Peru against the Socceroos in a potentially decisive game.

A send-off match in late May is being planned for either Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, before another two friendlies in Europe -- one prior to arriving in Russia and then one after landing in the host country.

The Norweigans, coached by Swede Lars Lagerback for the past year, finished fourth in their World Cup qualifying group, behind Germany, Northern Ireland and Czech Republic.

While one piece of the jigsaw has been locked in, the Socceroos are still without a coach for the tournament following Ange Postecoglou's walkout in November.

The Melburnian will take the helm of J.League club Yokohama F. Marinos this month.

Three ex-Socceroos - Mark Bresciano, Stan Lazaridis and Mark Schwarzer -- have been drafted into a committee to find the new coach led by consultants SRi Executive and FFA national teams boss Luke Casserly.

It will recommend the appointment of a new coach before mid-February.

THE SOCCEROOS' WORLD CUP PREPARATION
March 23: International friendly v Norway
March 27: Second Europe-based friendly
Late May: Sendoff match on home soil
Early June: Possible friendlies in Europe and in Australia's base city of Kazan

World Cup
June 16: Group stage match v France, Kazan
June 21: Group stage match v Denmark, Samara
June 26: Group stage match v Peru, Sochi

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