Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill vowed Australia would play ”without fear” when they take on a full-strength Brazil – one of world football’s genuine powerhouses – on the South American country’s national day this weekend.
Neill, playing in Japan for Omiya Ardija, described the international friendly in Brasilia as the perfect opportunity for Australia to gauge where it was at before next year’s World Cup tournament.
”It’s a great opportunity,” Neill said. ”It will allow for us to see where we are, what level we’re at. What’s important is we go over and get a taste of what Brazil is going to be like and to obviously compete against a very, very good team on a national day of all times … a day when they’re going to be in joyous celebration.
”We’re going to go out and enjoy it; play with a bit of character and throw a bit of caution to the wind and see what happens. There’ll obviously be a bit of a hidden agenda, and that’ll be [for Australia] to try and stifle a big team and pretend it’s a tournament situation.
”There is no pressure on us and there’ll be none on them either. They’ll be going out to celebrate their national day, so I’m sure they’ll be in good spirits with the football. From our point of view we just have to stay disciplined and while we need to respect who we’re playing against we can’t be overawed by the occasion.”
The last time Australia played Brazil – currently ranked No.9 in the world – was in Munich during the 2006 World Cup. The South Americans won that encounter 2-0, but the Socceroos have enjoyed a victory over the heavyweights. The Australians defeated them 1-0 in a play-off for third place in the 2001 Confederations Cup.
Neill offered some advice to Central Coast striker Mitchell Duke, whose selection in the 22-man Australian squad was considered a reward from national coach Holger Osieck for his efforts in the inexperienced Socceroos squad which competed at the recent East Asian Cup in South Korea.
Neill said should the 22-year-old play it was crucial he produced the brand of football that gained him selection in the Australian side.
”He’s in the same position as everyone else, he can’t be overawed by the situation, but he also has to realise why he was selected for the Socceroos and to make sure he plays the same way for Australia,” he said. ”Obviously he has to fit in with the structure but it’s important he shows the attributes that got him selected and got him noticed.
”For any young guy that comes in I say ‘Give us your enthusiasm and energy.’ He did that in the training games in the lead-up to the Japan, Jordan and Iraq games … he was really energetic, putting himself about in the practice matches behind closed doors and we’ll be looking at him to do more of the same.
”What a great challenge for a young or old Australian player to be up against the $100 million and $50 million players that are being touted and signed all over Europe at the moment.
”It’s really exciting to think we’re going to take them on.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.