September 3, 2014 – 10:40AM
The Socceroos have won respect, now they’re out to start winning games again.
Australia’s build-up to next year’s Asian Cup begins with Friday morning’s friendly against Belgium in Liege, both sides’ first outing since the World Cup.
Despite losing all three group games, Ange Postecoglou and his side earned plaudits for a spirited showing in Brazil.
But the compliments mean little to a coach whose record in charge reads an underwhelming one win, one draw and five losses.
“It’s always about results,” Postecoglou said.
“If people think I’m happy with people saying we’ve done well after three losses, they don’t know me too well.
“We want to be a side that other teams fear.
“We don’t want to always be the lower-ranked side and underdog going into tournaments. And those sort of things can only get fixed by results.”
Beginning Asian Cup preparations against a star-studded Belgium side which reached the quarter-finals in Brazil hardly looms as the most winnable challenge for Australia, though they face an easier assignment against Saudi Arabia in London four days later.
Postecoglou says his side has nothing to fear, regardless of the opponent, after the World Cup.
“Playing them (Belgium) here is going to be a tough challenge, exactly what we want,” Postecoglou said.
“But is going to be any tougher than facing the Dutch, or Chileans, or Spain at a World Cup? I don’t think so.
“From our perspective, whoever we play from now on, we can’t be too worried about it or fearful because we’ve already stared down the biggest monster and showed we can compete.”
With the Socceroos targeting Asian Cup glory on home soil in January, increasing the squad depth is a key focus for Postecoglou going forward.
Uncapped Trent Sainsbury, Brad Smith, Chris Herd and Bailey Wright, along with rising A-League striker Tomi Juric, have all been called up for the friendly matches and are likely to get chances at some stage.
Dutch-based defender Sainsbury could get a starting debut in central defence against Belgium while Chris Herd and Josh Brillante are possible options at right back with World Cup players Matthew Spiranovic, Ivan Franjic and Ryan McGowan missing.
Postecoglou won’t be willing to experiment too much, however, with the core of the World Cup team including Tim Cahill, Mile Jedinak and Mathew Leckie set to start as Australia target a first win since beating Costa Rica 1-0 in November last year.
“These two games, we want to have a look at (the new faces) but we’ll never take away from the fact we want to put our strongest team out there and try to win a game of football,” Postecoglou said.
Star attacker Robbie Kruse returns after almost nine months out with a knee injury but is likely to be used sparingly as he regains match fitness.
Belgium will be without attacking stars Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Marouane Fellaini but their squad still boasts a heap of Premier League talent including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj.
Thursday September 4, 8.45pm (0445 Friday AEST)
Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liege
Head to head: First meeting
Odds: Belgium $1.33, Draw $5, Australia $9
Australia: Mat Ryan (gk), Jason Davidson, Alex Wilkinson, Trent Sainsbury, Josh Brillante, Mile Jedinak (capt), Mark Milligan, Mark Bresciano, Tommy Oar, Mathew Leckie, Tim Cahill.
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois (gk), Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany (capt), Nicolas Lombaerts, Toby Alderweireld, Axel Witsel, Moussa Dembele, Kevin De Bruyne, Kevin Mirallas, Nacer Chadli, Divock Origi.
Source : The Sydney Morning Herald