CURITIBA Brazil (Reuters) - Feared as tough opponents in many sports, Australia are aiming to build the same reputation in soccer after a creditable showing at the World Cup.
Australia are out of the tournament but want to show that their narrow 3-2 defeat by the highly-rated Dutch was not just a flash in the pan when they face deposed champions Spain on Monday before both teams head for home.
“We’ve got plenty to play for,” coach Ange Postecoglou told a news conference on Sunday.
“This is our fourth World Cup and we’ve only won two World Cup games,” he added.
“If we are going to continue to improve and become the nation that we want to become and be feared, we’ve got to start winning games at this level.”
Australia have qualified for the last three World Cups, reaching the second round in 2006.
Soccer in Australia has long been overshadowed by sports like cricket, Australian Rules Football, swimming and rugby but interest in the game is growing with more children playing it.
The domestic A-League is starting to attract big name players, albeit ones at the end of their careers, including Italian Alessandro del Piero and Spaniard David Villa.
Forward Tim Cahill has again been the team’s talisman in Brazil, scoring in the opening 3-1 defeat to Chile and with a stunning volley against the Dutch.
Cahill misses the game against Spain through suspension, while experienced duo Mark Milligan and Mark Bresciano are both struggling with injuries and are unlikely to start.
Captain Mile Jedinak said the defeat by the Netherlands was down to small lapses and that a young Australian team needed to cut them out.
“Can we stay concentrated and disciplined for 90, 95 minutes? We know we’re going to have to against very good quality Spanish opposition,” he said.
Neither team was able to train on the pitch at the Baixada arena on Sunday because it was too cut up after Friday’s game between Ecuador and Honduras.
“It’s not ideal because obviously it would be great for the players to have a look around today and get a feel for the pitch,” said Postecoglou.
Editing by Ed Osmond