WHEN the Socceroos take on Germany in Kaiserslautern on Thursday morning AEDT it will be more than just a chance to test their mettle against the best national team in the world. It will be the first step towards Russia 2018.
Typically, Australian coach Ange Postecoglou has resisted the chance to give his team a soft return to action following a successful but physically and emotionally gruelling Asian Cup campaign.
He’s not about to change a winning formula, and that means throwing a team of largely young and inexperienced players into the toughest conditions he can find.
Happily for the fans, it also means not taking the foot off the pedal in terms of playing style or tactics. This might be the current World Cup champions they are up against, but Postecoglou will be sending his side out to play exactly the way they did against Oman, China and Korea Republic in January.
And who is going to argue? For football coaches, trophies are currency and Postecoglou, under pressure four months ago after a winless World Cup and poor results in “friendlies” in Europe and the Middle East, is now riding high.
“Winning the Asian Cup helps in that people want to buy into my plan because they’ve seen it works,” he said.
With the Asian Cup now in the trophy cabinet, Postecoglou has the luxury of almost universal support from FFA powerbrokers and the fans, but he says there was never any doubt amongst his players.
“In early games even though results were inconsistent there was never any wavering in what we were trying to do,” he said. “Our feedback to them was always consistent, that it was all part of the process. We were picking these opponents, these conditions, and constantly changing the team for a purpose, and that was to create a really strong group going into Asian Cup.
“While externally there was some concern about how we were travelling, within the group we were always pretty confident about what we were doing, and we still are.
“We accepted this game against Germany when we were in the Middle East. The team was struggling from a performance point of view but even at that time we thought this was a great game for us. It’s worked with this group to continually put them in these difficult situations. They seem to thrive in that environment as opposed to saying, ‘well let’s get some easier games’. At no stage have I felt we needed easier games for any reason.
“In my mind the players liked the fact that we had that belief in them.”