Australia became the first team to touch down on African soil for the finals when the Socceroos landed in Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport on Wednesday evening.
With less than two weeks to the tournament, teams are expected to arrive in South Africa to prepare themselves ahead of the start of their group matches. Australia coach, Pim Verbeek said his team had decided to arrive early in South Africa in order to become acquainted with the local conditions.
“First of all I want to say that we are very excited to be here in South Africa," said Verbeek. "I have been in this country about eight or nine times already, and I have always enjoyed my stay here. It’s a great country and they have some of the best hotels. However, now we are here for a different reason, we are here to compete. However, I know it’s not going to be easy, we have a tough group with some quality teams.
“The most important thing for us is to win our first game. We have given ourselves plenty of time to prepare and acclimatise to the local conditions. The players will have to get used to the altitude and the few warm-up matches we will help us a lot on achieving this. When playing in the World Cup, you have to prepare yourself and make sure the team is in good conditions," he said.
Australia will open their tournament with a match against Germany in the coastal city of Durban two days after the opening match at Soccer City between South Africa and Mexico. They will then face the much-improved African side, Ghana, in Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng before their Group D finale match against Serbia at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. The Australians were welcomed by the CEO of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee, Danny Jordaan and president of the South African Football Association (SAFA) Kirsten Nematandani.
“We are pleased to welcome Australia as the first team to arrive in our country. We all know that the stadiums are all ready, everything is in place and now the teams are finally here. More importantly though, our people are ready. From now, we have to concentrate on the kickoff match in few days time,” Jordaan said.
Australia have made two appearances in the FIFA World Cup. In 2006, they enjoyed a healthy run under then coach, Guus Hiddink, finishing second behind Brazil in their group before being eliminated by overall winners, Italy in the knockout stages.