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Australia faces difficult task at World Cup

AP - Sports

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -- Australia departs for the World Cup with a new coach and a revamped squad. And with many pundits giving the Socceroos barely any chance of success in Brazil.

The Australians will be playing in their third consecutive World Cup, but they've been drawn in a tough Group B with defending champion Spain, 2010 runners-up Netherlands and Chile. Australia will play a friendly against Croatia on June 7 in Brazil before its first Cup match against Chile on June 13.

The Socceroos drew 1-1 with South Africa, which did not qualify for Brazil, in a lackluster friendly in Sydney in their last warmup on home soil.

That did nothing to deter the doomsayers: former Australia captain Paul Wade had earlier said the team will be ''smashed'' and some critics suggest the Australians will be lucky to score a goal.

Former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold, an assistant to head coaches Guus Hiddink in 2006 and Pim Verbeek in 2010, wasn't as pessimistic.

''The older guys, Mile Jedinak, Timmy Cahill, Mark Milligan, Mark Bresciano, have a massive role to play,'' Arnold said. ''They have to get the kids to relax and help them to use their enthusiasm and energy properly. The Australian mentality will shine through.''

Cahill, Bresciano, Milligan, Josh Kennedy and Luke Wilkshire are in line to make the Socceroos' squad for a third World Cup. Ange Postecoglou cut FC Utrecht midfielder Adam Sarota, Dundee defender Curtis Good and Australia-based Josh Brillante from his squad a day before leaving for Brazil. Postecoglou will announce his final 23 players by June 2.

The Australian squad departed Sydney airport on Wednesday with captain Jedinak among a number of players with ailments. Jedinak is confident he'll soon overcome his groin strain while key midfielders Bresciano (back) and Tom Rogic (groin), and defenders Matthew Spiranovic (ankle) and Ivan Franjic (knee), are also less than fully fit.

''If we think it's going to be our last World Cup, we're going to try and finish it the best way we can,'' said Bresciano, speaking on behalf of the veterans in the squad. ''It's in the back of our minds that it could be our last. We're all going to try and make it our best.

''We know that we are going to Brazil in a very tough group but we're going to go there and just try and do our country proud and do ourselves proud and try and shock the world.''

Cahill is Australia's leading scorer in international football and, at 34, will be the senior player in an inexperienced squad which is being groomed for greater things in 2018. And that squad will not play defensively in Brazil, says Postecoglou.

''It's part of the Australian sports culture, we want our teams to be attacking teams,'' Postecoglou said. ''And our players like to play that way.''

Cahill was part of the 2006 World Cup squad which reached the second round before losing to eventual champion Italy after conceding a contentious late penalty. A similar group of players, though four years older, were knocked out in the group stage at South Africa 2010.

After a challenging qualifying campaign, the Australians were thrashed 6-0 in back-to-back routs by Brazil and France in late 2013, sparking an overhaul within months of the World Cup.

Holger Oseick to lose his job as coach, with Postecoglou becoming the first home-grown manager of the national team in almost a decade. He has broadened the search for new talent.

''If there is an opportunity there for us to create some headlines and shock the world, we'll take it,'' Postecoglou said. ''I'm trying to put myself in the other coaches' shoes and they would be saying, 'When we play Australia we have to win.' The other three countries expect to get through, and for that to happen they have to beat us. So there is enormous pressure on them.''

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