The battling Socceroos and their fun-loving supporters are always welcome guests at FIFA World Cup™ finals, and fans around the globe have long since taken the Aussies to their hearts for their bonhomie and easy-going nature.
Yet, as FIFA.com’s latest poll shows, Pim Verbeek’s side have also gained a reputation as a seriously good football team. Responding to the question “Which AFC representative will fare best at South Africa 2010?” the site’s users overwhelmingly voted for Harry Kewell and Co. Attracting 42.16 per cent of the votes, Australia finished well clear of Japan on 24.71 per cent and Korea Republic on 24.62 per cent, with Korea DPR bringing up the rear on 8.51 per cent.
Aussie hopes high, Japan expectant“There are no egos in my team,” said coach Verbeek in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com recently. “For many of my players this will be their final chance to play in a FIFA World Cup.” It will also be the Dutchman’s final act as national coach, and his players are determined to see him go out on a high note, among them goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. “It would really cap off a memorable season,” he told us earlier this month.
Beaten 1-0 in the Round of 16 at Germany 2006 by eventual champions Italy, the Australians and their army of fans believe that they can go one step further this time and make history by checking into the last eight. Given their recent progress, that goal does not look beyond the ever-improving Socceroos.
AFC rivals Japan have even loftier aspirations, however, as their gifted midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura explained in another exclusive chat with FIFA.com only last month. “Our coach Takeshi Okada thinks we can reach the semi-finals,” said the former Celtic player. “The team has to be able to live up to those expectations and achieve that goal.”
So as you can see, there is no lack of ambition from the AFC’s finest. Just which of them will go the furthest? All will be revealed in a little over two months’ time.