Australia talk up chances against fancied France
Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan has warned France that a new, improved Australia team are plotting an early World Cup shock when the sides meet in Kazan on Saturday.
“Come the France game, we’re going to be ready… and giving ourselves opportunities to win this game,” the Brighton stopper warned.”We can’t wait for Saturday.”
Barely a day after arriving in Kazan, Aussie confidence could be mistaken for the adverse effects of jetlag.
But Bert van Marwijk’s side, fresh from two morale-boosting wins over the Czech Republic (4-0) and Hungary (2-1), arrived on a far shorter flight from Turkey.
France, who boast “world-class” talent in Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, according to Australia midfielder Massimo Luongo, are among the tournament favourites in Russia alongside Brazil and Germany.
But the Euro 2016 finalists have been warned not to take the new, improved and more determined Socceroos too lightly at Kazan Arena.
“I read a stat before the Czech game that we hadn’t won against a European opponent in Europe for quite some time,” said Ryan. “We managed to do that twice in a couple of weeks.
“I feel like we’re benefiting and progressing from our time together in this mini-camp in Turkey. For myself and for the squad, the progress has been out of sight.”
After squeezing into the World Cup following a marathon 22-game qualifying campaign under the helm of previous coach Ange Postecoglou, Australia then had to adapt to the arrival of Van Marwijk.
Known for leading the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, the no-nonsense Dutchman has been rather less glowing in his appraisal of the Socceroos’ chances in Russia.
“Only one thing counts, to survive the group stage,” van Marwijk said previously.
But his more disciplined approach, coupled with the desire to get forward and take chances when they come, said Luongo, has spread confidence throughout the squad.
“The manager doesn’t want to lose or draw games, he wants us to win them,” added Luongo, a versatile midfielder who plays for Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship.
Despite his admiration for France’s individual talents, the 25-year-old Luongo, whose father is Italian and mother is Indonesian, believes France are “there for the taking”.
“At this level, everyone’s even,” he said. “As you’ve seen in the past it’s all there for the taking. Individually, they’ve got some big players, world-class players, especially in midfield.”
Jiangsu Suning defender Trent Sainsbury is expected to keep a close eye on Atletico Madrid striker Griezmann.
He said: “Obviously, he’s one of best in the world, everyone’s talking about him. But it’s a team sport and I’ve got teammates around me who can help me to deal with that.”
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