Australia's 'golden generation' faces tough farewell
Socceroos players Michael Zullo (L) and Mark Bresciano (R) model the kit the Australian team will wear at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, in Sydney on February 17, 2014 - by William West
The Socceroos, ranked 63 in the world, could not have asked for a tougher assignment than being put in Group B with defending champions Spain, three-time runners-up the Netherlands and the much-fancied Chile.
With former stars Harry Kewell and Mark Schwarzer out of the picture, and Lucas Neill uncertain of his place, Australia will find it hard to emulate their feat of reaching the last 16 in 2006.
However, coach Ange Postecoglou is doing his best to remain positive, saying expectations of a win could weigh on their more fancied opponents.
"I'm trying to put myself in the other coaches' shoes and they would be saying, 'when we play Australia we have to win'," Postecoglou said.
"The other three countries expect to get through, and for that to happen they have to beat us so there is enormous pressure on them.
"If we play real hard, physical football and frustrate them, the pressure is bound to mount up if things aren’t going well for them in that 90 minutes.
"It's something I think we can work to our advantage."
Greek-born Postecoglou, 48, has only been in charge since October following the sacking of German Holger Osieck after consecutive 6-0 thrashings in Brazil and France.
Postecoglou, who won two Australian A-League championships with Brisbane Roar, has been handed the difficult task of managing the transition of the country's so-called 'golden generation' into a new era.
Postecoglou has had only two internationals against fellow finalists Costa Rica (1-0) and Ecuador (3-4), with two more scheduled against South Africa and Croatia, to prepare for Australia's opening World Cup match against Chile in Cuiaba on June 13.
"This could be my last World Cup and I don’t want to waste it," Postecoglou said. "If there is an opportunity there for us to create some headlines and shock the world we’ll take it."
Australia's undoubted star is Tim Cahill, who is his country's record scorer with 31 goals and is expected to lead the attack in Brazil.
The former Everton midfielder, who now plays for the New York Red Bulls, is lining up for his third World Cup and is likely be joined by experienced midfielder Mark Bresciano in Brazil.
Schwarzer announced his retirement from international football at the age of 41 last November, leaving European-based pair Mat Ryan and Mitchell Langerak to fight it out for the keeper's jersey.
Neill, 36, struggled to play at Watford in the English Championship and despite being the national skipper may miss out when Postecoglou names his final 23-man squad.
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