A livid Harry Kewell hoped to confront Michael Cockerill at Socceroos training following an article the Fairfax football writer wrote criticising the striker’s commitment.

Socceroo Harry Kewell slammed media criticism of his role in the team, lashing critics who have questioned his fitness and recent performances and claiming that suggestions of a rift between Australia’s star player and coach Pim Verbeek were a fabrication.

Kewell was in a combative mood as he arrived for training last night, demanding that Fairfax football writer Mike Cockerill – who was not present – show himself.

Cockerill had written a column questioning Kewell’s fitness and commitment and the Galatasaray player – who has been recovering from a groin injury and did not play in the humiliating loss to Germany last Sunday – was desperate to fire back.

“Why isn’t he here?” Kewell said. “He’s the one making all these accusations. I want him to know about it. I want to know why is he doing it?”

“Does anyone have any answers for me?”

The Socceroos looked dangerously like a team under siege. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley had earlier called a press conference to deny rumours of a rift between senior players Kewell and Mark Bresciano and the coach. An open training session at Ruimsig Stadium was abruptly changed to a closed one.

Neither Kewell nor Bresciano played a single minute in Durban as the team chosen by Verbeek was humbled by Germany.

Kewell also denied any rift between players and coach but admitted he had been disappointed not to at least be given minutes off the bench against Germany.

“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But that’s the manager’s choice. He had a plan and stuck with it. We all agreed to it. And it’s unfortunate that we lost.”

Kewell said he was fit and ready to play on Saturday against Ghana and accused reporters of “slagging off” himself and the team’s medical staff who have battled to get him fit for World Cup duty.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Youse are all supposed to be on our team and it’s a shame that youse are all having a go at us.”

Asked if he felt he was under attack, Kewell continued his tirade.

“I think there are people that are just making things up,” he said. “They are just trying to get scoops.”

Kewell has been criticised for not warming up with the rest of the Australian team in Durban, with the suggestion being he could not possibly have been fit to play but incapable of warming up.

“I was told by my physio not to do it, to do my own preparation,” he said. “Again there’s speculation that there is a rift, there is no rift. We are all disappointed in the game… we take it on the chin and we go prove it in the game against Ghana.”

Kewell said he fully supported Verbeek and would live “by his rules”. He said it was not up to him to demand that he play against Ghana in a must-win clash for the Socceroos.

“I don’t think any footballer would ever go up to a manager and say ‘put me on’,” he said. “You can’t do that. It’s his rules and his way. You accept that.”