Can Ange Postecoglou match his ambitions with reality in the Confederations Cup? (AAP: Julian Smith)
Less than 24 hours after Brazil took the Socceroos to school, Ange Postecoglou has set the bar boldly high for the Confederations Cup.
Even Tuesday night’s 4-0 MCG thrashing couldn’t dampen the coach’s belief about what Australia can achieve at the tournament in Russia.
Confed Cup schedule (AEST)
- Socceroos v Germany in Sochi — Tuesday June 20, 1:00am
- Socceroos v Cameroon in St Petersburg — Friday June 23, 1:00am
- Socceroos v Chile in Moscow — Monday June 26, 1:00am
“We want to win it, mate,” was the almost nonchalantly expressed objective as the squad prepared to fly out of Melbourne.
“I know after last night that probably sounds ridiculous, but I took this job with the intent of being as ambitious as I possibly can for Australian football.
“When you’re ambitious you have spectacular failures and spectacular successes.
“I’m not going to coach in between, just notch up a stint for my country as a coach flat-lining. Let’s go there and see what we can do.
“The first game is obviously critical. If we get a result against Germany then it’s that kind of competition that you’ve got a chance.”
Indeed, getting out of its group may well be Australia’s toughest task given it has been thrown in with world champions Germany, South American champions Chile and African champions Cameroon.
The high-quality trio will give the Socceroos — there as Asian champions — invaluable World Cup preparation, should they qualify.
Progress further and there is the prospect of Portugal (European champions), New Zealand (Oceania champions), Mexico (CONCACAF Gold Cup winners) and Russia (2018 World Cup hosts).
Joachim Loew’s Germany are first up in Sochi on Monday night, and Australia fancies itself a chance against an experimental side missing a host of stars including Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez and Mats Hummels.
Previous meetings with Germany, Chile and Cameroon
Australia has an absurdly tough group to conquer in the warm-up event for next year’s World Cup. How have they coped when facing their opposition in previous clashes?
Germany was far too good for Australia in Durban in 2010, winning 4-0. (Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach)
Who can forget Australia’s bubble of optimism bursting in 2010 when a young, energetic German side pulverised the Socceroos in Durban.
Mesut Ozil had just arrived in the international spotlight and the soon-to-be Real Madrid midfielder ran riot, perfectly orchestrating the Germans to a 4-0 win which immediately put Australia’s campaign in South Africa on the back foot.
But their most recent clash in Kaiserslautern saw the Australians nearly claim victory before substitutes Lukas Podolski and Andre Schurlle rescued a 2-2 draw for Die Mannschaft.
Chile’s Alexis Sanchez wheels away during Chile’s 3-1 win over Australia in 2014. (Reuters: Paul Hanna)
Australia was always up against it when facing a red-hot Chile in the 2014 World Cup, and so it proved as La Roja ran out 3-1 winners.
Alexis Sanchez impressed as he played both goal-scorer and provider, opening the scoring before assisting Jorge Valdivia.
Tim Cahill pulled a goal back before half-time, only for Jean Beausejour’s long-range strike to settle any Chilean nerves at the death.
Entering the Confederations Cup as South American champions, the super-energetic Chileans will match endeavour with searing pace to threaten Australia on all fronts.
Australia and Cameroon have actually never faced each other in any friendly or tournament meet-up.
Next Friday morning’s clash will be a first for all involved, with Cameroon only losing twice in 17 fixtures since June last year.
Lacking the superstars and household names of yesteryear, Cameroon remains a hard-working entity, playing typically industrious football.
Australia’s last World Cup experience against African opposition saw a 10-man Socceroos side battle out a 1-1 draw against Ghana after Asamoah Gyan’s penalty (scored after Harry Kewell’s hand ball and sending off) cancelled out Brett Holman’s 11th-minute opener.
‘Roos balancing World Cup prep and Confed ambitions
But is the end point the tournament itself, or is that merely one crucial piece of the World Cup puzzle?
“It’s both,” Postecoglou said.
“It’s a competition and we want to do well in the competition … make sure we make a good account of ourselves and get as far in the tournament as we possibly can.
“That’ll help us with qualification as well, because if you can continue to evolve and do it against the best in the world then you’ve got more chance of being competitive and making an impact at a World Cup.”
Postecoglou did not name an official replacement skipper for Mile Jedinak, who returned to England to recover from an ongoing groin issue, though Tim Cahill or Mark Milligan are the obvious choices.
Jedinak’s replacement, Jimmy Jeggo, and Brad Smith’s replacement, Alex Gersbach, will meet the team in Russia.