Tim Cahill (AFP)
Kazan – Australia talisman Tim Cahill may have to settle for a World Cup cameo role while captain Mile Jedinak could start on the bench but the Socceroos say team changes will not hurt their campaign.
Bursaspor defender Aziz Behich said team selection will make little difference to a Socceroos side aiming to punch above their weight and shock Group C opponents France at Kazan Arena on Saturday.
“We’re not here to make up numbers, that’s for sure,” Bursaspor’s Behich said on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a good game, a good test for us. It’s 11 versus 11, so we’re not afraid of anybody.”
While France are among the favourites in Russia, Australia’s main objective is to get past the group stage – a feat they have achieved only once, in 2006, under Guus Hiddink.
The Socceroos are now under the stewardship of another Dutchman, Bert van Marwijk, who led the Netherlands to the 2010 final. He has shown no fear when it comes to shaking up Australia’s established order.
Aston Villa midfielder Jedinak, on the verge of losing the skipper’s armband to Jiangsu Suning defender Trent Sainsbury, was an unused substitute in a 4-0 friendly win against the Czech Republic and came off the bench in the second half of a 2-1 win over Hungary.
After two training sessions in Kazan it appears Queens Park Rangers midfielder Massimo Luongo will get the nod over Jedinak to play alongside Huddersfield Town’s Aaron Mooy in the centre of midfield.
Yet the likely changes, said Hertha Berlin winger Mathew Leckie, will not shake Australia’s collective resolve.
“At the end of the day it comes down to what the coach wants and what is best for the team,” said Leckie, one of only four survivors from Australia’s 2014 World Cup squad.
“Mile is an idol for all of us and we look up to him… but even if he’s not on the pitch he does the same things in the changing room, off the park. He’s a really good professional and he’s always positive.”
Cahill, too, may have to shelve his personal aims for the Socceroos’ cause.
Although he is aiming to find the net for a fourth consecutive World Cup, the 38-year-old striker is expected to be used sparingly.
But that does not mean Cahill will be moping on the bench, said Leckie: “Tim hasn’t played the two friendlies but he’s the ultimate professional. He’s exactly the same as Mile. He’s just positive, no negativity.”