KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - According to the calculations of Australia coach Bert van Marwijk, the Socceroos will probably lose their World Cup opener against France on Saturday and will need “luck” as well as team spirit to emerge with a result.
Australia have been written off by pundits and bookmakers, with most betting agencies rating them a 10-1 shot or worse of upsetting star-studded France, one of the tournament’s most favoured sides.
Van Marwijk, himself, was not about to suger-coat things on the eve of the match at Kazan Arena, but said his side had worked tirelessly to improve the odds.
“Normally, we play 10 times against France, maybe we lose eight, nine times,” the 66-year-old Dutchman told reporters at the stadium.
“We have worked hard to get a situation that maybe we lose five, six times (out of 10) but we also can win a few times and a few times draw.
“That’s important. When you’re well organised and you believe in something and everybody knows exactly from each other what to do and you have the guts to play and be yourself, then we have a chance.”
For the record, Australia have won once and drawn a match in their four previous clashes against France.
However, the Socceroos were hammered 6-0 in their last match-up, a friendly in Paris in 2013, which triggered the immediate dismissal of former boss Holger Osieck.
A solid start in Russia will be key for Australia, who were thrashed by Chile at Brazil four years ago and Germany at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 demolition by hosts Russia underlined that point for Van Marwijk, who steered the Green Falcons through qualifying before parting ways.
“We’d better not come tomorrow if we think like that,” said the Dutchman of the prospect of a first-up rout.
“We’ve worked four weeks now very hard and you must believe in something. We also have to have a little bit of luck.”
There has been plenty of speculation over Van Marwijk’s preferred midfield and even the possibility of stalwart Mile Jedinak losing the captain’s arm-band.
The absence of Aston Villa man Jedinak at the pre-match media conference, with winger Mathew Leckie turning up instead, will only fan that speculation.
Van Marwijk denied there was anything afoot, however, while refusing to offer any insights into his preferred team or tactics against the French.
The Socceroos have nonetheless had to learn a more structured style under Van Marwijk than the enterprising one under his predecessor Ange Postecoglou.
“For me what happened in the past and the way we played in the past is irrelevant now,” said Leckie.
“We’re here at this World Cup to, as we said, get out of the group stage.
“We’ve worked really hard on the new system and everyone is (familiar) with it. Everyone knows exactly what we need to do and we’re ready for France.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar