Football - Aussies in Paris

Preview: Aussies defiant ahead of French clash

Preview: Aussies defiant ahead of French clash
Lucas Neill (L) captain of the "Socceroos", the Australian football team, will face off against French captain Hugo Lloris (R) in a friendly in Paris on Friday night. Photo: Franck Fife/Bruno Fahy/AFP
Australia's football coach Holger Osieck and team captain Lucas Neill were in defiant mood this week ahead of their friendly clash with France in Paris on Friday evening. Despite being thrashed by Brazil last month, the Socceroos have already qualified for next year's World Cup.

Furious Australia manager Holger Osieck blasted his detractors  ahead of the Socceroos friendly clash with France at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday.

German Osieck has had a successful three-year stint in charge of Australia, guiding them to the World Cup finals just two years after reaching the Asian Cup final and beating 2-1 Germany in Moenchengladbach in a friendly.

Yet last month's 6-0 thrashing at the hands of World Cup hosts Brazil in Brasilia has seen the pressure mount on the 65-year-old in the Australian press.

Osieck hit out at his critics, telling them their expectations were unreasonable.

"I haven't heard anything, I'm not aware of any discussion (concerning his future) so I can't comment," he said.

"We are in the phase of preparing (for the World Cup) and I really picked the best teams in the world to prepare against. Do you think you can go to Brazil and beat them on their own soil by a big margin?

"Tomorrow (Friday) we play another top team, do you expect to hammer them 5-0? Some people are out of order," he fumed.

Captain Lucas Neill, who currently plays for Omiya Ardija in Japan, having previously spent 15 years in England, backed up his manager and said he cannot understand the criticism being directed at the former Canada coach.

"There's always pressure on players and coaches, we get judged on results," he said.

"(We've had) two very big results, one the Asian Cup final and now qualifying for the World Cup. That's two big achievements for the team and we're now looking forward.

"Unfortunately the result versus Brazil has everyone talking, but we're all together and very much behind the manager. We're confident of going together to the biggest tournament you can play in Brazil next year."

While the press in Australia were alarmed at the capitulation in Brazil, Osieck says people shouldn't be too surprised as the players were under-prepared.

"Looking at the Brazil game, it was an early stage of the season and a big number of our players had not been in their season. They're spread all over the world, they were in pre-season and some even in the off-season, so we couldn't find our rhythm.

"Now it's four weeks later, our physical condition has increased and that is the basis for an improved technical and tactical game."

But while some in the Australian media claim a defeat could see Osieck sacked, the manager insists he's not worried about the result.

"First of all we have to follow our programme direction. Even if we lose, it's part of the game. It can happen at any time," he said.

"We're not here to have that thinking, what we consider most important is that we'll have a better performance (than against Brazil), grow together as a team and get back to the strength that was our characteristic."

This will be the fourth meeting between Les Bleus and the Socceroos, with honours even at one 1-0 victory apiece and a 1-1 draw the last time they met, 12 years ago in a friendly in Melbourne.

France have themselves been struggling of late to score goals, although they did end a record run of almost nine hours without finding the net by winning 4-2 in Belarus last month.

That left them needing just a home win over Finland on Tuesday to ensure they qualify for the World Cup qualifying European zone play-offs.

France coach Didier Deschamps dropped star striker Karim Benzema for the win in Gomel and replaced him with in-form Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud.

However, he has refused to speculate which player will get the nod at the Parc on Friday, although Benzema's recent problems, failing to find the net for France since June last year and being jeered by Real Madrid fans on the club front, can hardly help his cause.

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