Socceroos remain quietly confident for World Cup chances
AS IF if facing 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and the Netherlands in Group B wasn't enough, Australia will open its campaign tomorrow morning in Brazil against a team rated by former Socceroos star Harry Kewell as the "dark horse" to win the tournament.
Under new coach Ange Postecoglou, the Socceroos were the first team to arrive in Brazil and have been put through an exhausting build-up to ensure they are not caught out in the opening game as they were four years ago in South Africa when humbled 4-0 by Germany.
Despite having a new-look line-up under the new boss, the Aussies showed they had improved significantly on disastrous back-to-back 6-0 defeats at the hands of Brazil and France late last year when they went down 1-0 to Croatia last weekend.
As well as a new coach, the team has a new captain, 25-year-old Crystal Palace skipper Mile Jedinak (pictured).
He admitted the team would go in to the tournament as heavy underdogs, but said he was confident of a strong showing.
"We've been working very hard over the last few weeks to better the understanding amongst us in the defence and midfield in particular," Jedinak said.
"Against Croatia there were a lot of good signs and I think the defensive structure is pretty good.
"We're going into these games as the underdogs and that's fine by us. Within the camp and the group there's still a lot of belief that we could go out there and surprise people."
The defence may have been good against Croatia, but creating opportunities for star striker Tim Cahill was a problem.
Australia's greatest international goal scorer said he was confident the inclusion of midfielder Mark Bresciano in the starting line-up against Chile would significantly improve the team's attack.
"The way Mark Bresciano has been training, I feel that he looks confident," he said.
Like Australia, Chile also ended its qualifying campaign with a different coach to the one it started with.
Argentine Claudio Borghi was dumped after three consecutive losses, replaced by compatriot Jorge Sampaoli who has brought a very attacking philosophy to the team, so much so that its 29-goal haul during qualification was bettered by only one other country.
On the other hand it has also conceded more goals (25) than any of South America's other automatic qualifiers, giving the Socceroos hope that they may be able to expose a perceived lack of pace at the back.
So while Australia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament at 62, is considered by many to be just making up the numbers, Jedinak had two words for the doubters: "We believe".
Possible Australia line-up: Mat Ryan, Ivan Franjic, Matthew Spiranovic, Alex Wilkinson, Jason Davidson, Mark Milligan, Mile Jedinak (c), Mark Bresciano, Ben Halloran, Tim Cahill, Tommy Oar.
Possible Chile line-up: Claudio Bravo (c), Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, Eugenio Mena, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Marcelo Diaz, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas, Mauricio Pinilla.
Australia v Chile in Cuiaba, kick-off at 8am Saturday morning (AEST).