BEING written off in many quarters is hardly a surprise for the Socceroos, well aware they are expected to be grist to the French mill when the World Cup kicks off.

Seen as rank outsiders for Saturday's opening clash by bookies, fans and pundits alike, the Australian squad is sharpening its resolve in response.

With coach Bert van Marwijk trying to steer his team's focus away from the size of their challenge, and on to the way they will play, the Australian players are trying to strike a balance between healthy respect, and a healthy belief in their ability to upset the accepted order of things.

"The pundits always write Australia off," left back Aziz Behich said. "We are not focused on whether we are underdogs or favourites.

"We know what we are capable of, we have a tight group between us, we are confident, and just by going from training we are building every day, we are becoming stronger as a team and becoming a good team.

"That's going to be important for us during this tournament so hopefully we can put on a good show."

Mathew Leckie likes the Socceroos‘ underdogs tag. Picture: Toby Zerna
Mathew Leckie likes the Socceroos‘ underdogs tag. Picture: Toby Zerna

Winger Mathew Leckie, used to facing the elite of European football in the Bundesliga for Hertha Berlin, believes the mantle of being favourites could play against the French, and offer the Socceroos a chink of light.

"Everyone's expecting France to win which is normal - that gives them some pressure and gives us a little more of the nothing-to-lose attitude," he said.

"No one expects us to pick up points against France but that's what we'll try to do and I think it's definitely possible.

"You saw in the USA game, they gave them a hard time a couple of days ago. If we can have a good game, stay disciplined and focused, we can do the same."

Right back Josh Risdon joked about the prospect of "a boy from the A-League" taking on the power of France's attack, but detailed the preparation long underway for this game.

"Everything we've done in (the pre-camp in) Turkey has been leading up to this game and now but I'm sure we'll have a closer look at who will play and stuff like that," he said.

"You don't come up against players like that every week, and we'll do everything we can to match them.

"They've been a strong nation for a long time. When I started watching football, they'd just won it (in 1998), and in 2006 - our first one for long time - they came so close.

"Drawing a team like that will be tough, but the Aussie sporting culture is that the stronger the opponent the more we rise to the occasion."



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