Socceroos into the unknown against Cameroon
WHEN Australia lines up against Cameroon in St Petersburg in the early hours of Friday morning (AEST), in what is a must-win Confederations Cup match for both teams, it will be the first time the two countries have ever met.
But for all the talk of stepping in to the unknown for Ange Postecoglou's side, the Australian coach will face something of a kindred spirit in the opposite dug out.
The two sides, in fact, have much more in common than might first met the eye.
Cameroon's coach, Hugo Broos was appointed to the job back in February 2016 and quickly set about trying to change a culture of underachievement.
In the same fashion as Postecoglou has done in his tenure, the Belgian did that by removing many of the old, established players, searching the world for youngsters he could bring in to the squad and mould in to an attacking outfit with a clear identity.
Facing questions from the local media over his methods and ambition, Broos answered them with a continental title, his fresh faced team winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year when many had given them less than a puncher's chance.
The parallels have continued, of course, in to the current tournament. An opening round loss to Chile was one that came with credit. But has left no room for error.
"Disappointed with the result but satisfied with the performance,” Broos said of that loss. Postegoglou, too, had positives to take from the first round despite defeat.
Against Australia Cameroon will be hoping their vaunted winger Christian Bassogog has a greater impact than he did against the South Americans.
The player of the Africa Cup of Nations in January, a performance that earned him a lucrative move from Aalborg BK in the Danish top flight to the Chinese Super League, his pace and directness will test Austraslia's defence out wide.
Vincent Aboubakar, the Besiktas striker, will be handful in the air in the Socceroos box.
Both teams will have targeted this fixture as the most winnable within the group before the tournament opened.
That assessment has become a necessity in terms of survival in the competition.