Mark Schwarzer believes the Socceroos will no longer have the same element of surprise about them as they make their final preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The Fulham goalkeeper, who has more caps (73) than any other member of coach Pim Verbeek's preliminary 31-man squad, believes Australia's performances at the last FIFA World Cup in Germany four years ago will ensure far more attention is paid by rival nations this time around.
In 2006 the Socceroos reached the knockout stages of the world's biggest sporting event for the first time in their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 32 years but Schwarzer has no doubt it will be much harder to repeat that feat second time around given the team no longer has the luxury of taking their opponents by surprise. "We are more well-known now and teams won't underestimate us as much as they did last time," Schwarzer said, as the team continued their preparations for Monday night's friendly against New Zealand at the MCG.
Australia still has 14 players in its squad that travelled to Germany last time and most of those are first-choice players. The 37-year-old believes it will be a different feeling for the Socceroos' first choice line-up this time around with most of them having the experience of Germany under their belts. "Obviously you are four years older and four years more experienced so there is that sense of knowing what to expect to a degree," he added.
"But again it's a different country altogether and a different tournament altogether and it's going to be a new challenge and a slightly more difficult challenge because we are no longer the team that was unknown a little bit (like four years ago)."
The likes of Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton and Craig Moore have had their preparations restricted by injuries in contrast to Schwarzer whose season has only just concluded when Fulham lost in the UEFA Europa League final to Atletico Madrid. But Schwarzer cast off any suggestions of mental tiredness on his part after such a long season and said returning to the Socceroos camp was just the thing he needed to mentally recharge his batteries after the disappointment of losing his second European club final, after also playing in one for his former club Middlesbrough.
"The last two years for me have almost been like a dream come true," he said of his move to Fulham. "It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication but it's all come together for club and country and I couldn't be happier.
"I have really enjoyed the move to Fulham and I just want to continue playing as long as I can and I feel I am working harder probably more so than at any other time in my career but I am really enjoying it too. And we (the players) are as excited about the World Cup as anyone else.
"We love coming home after a long (domestic) season and seeing all the fans back home makes you realise we are not far away from the World Cup and we can't wait for it to start."