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Wednesday, May 19, 2010
On the Mark

John Iannantuono

Many are quick to credit John Aloisi and Tim Cahill with shaping the destiny of Australian football. However, there's another player who's had quite a bearing on the Socceroos' golden years: Mark Bresciano. The talented midfielder with a penchant for spectacular goals has been an integral member of the Australian national team since 2003, providing an attacking edge and crucial contributions at key moments. His goal against Uruguay in the second leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff in 2005, for example, or the cross that led to Harry Kewell's equaliser against Croatia, which booked Australia's passage to the second round at Germany 2006. By his own admission, the 2006 tournament didn't showcase his best football - "Nothing crash hot," he says - but as he exclusively told Soccernet, he's determined for a better showing in South Africa - "and maybe even score a goal". Q. Let's start with your group opponents at the World Cup: Germany, Ghana, Serbia. That's a tough group. Is it tougher than the group Australia faced in 2006? A. I think it is - much tougher. They're all very good teams and very strong. They've all got different styles of football. For example, Germany is very good tactically and Serbia is very technical. There's a good mix there. Q. Things have been far from rosy in the German camp leading up to the tournament. With that in mind, is it advantageous to be playing them first in the group stage? A. I think it is, but I don't know if it's for that reason. I think it's good just to play the tougher teams first because hopefully their preparation isn't as good as what it's been for us. Also, sometimes mentally it's harder to switch on in the first game, so we can probably take advantage of that. Q. In your opinion, which of the three group fixtures is the crunch game for the Socceroos? A. I think it'll be very important for us just to get a result in the first game. Start off right, start off positive. A point or even three points in our first game will mean a lot for us. Q. This World Cup will be played during the winter as opposed to summer. Is this a negative from a Socceroos point of view, given the competitive advantage the team could have had with playing in warmer temperatures? A. I think it's a great climate to play in. However, I think maybe it would've been better off for Australia to have played in hot conditions. Now that we're part of the Asian Football Confederation and we've been playing against all of those countries, we've actually improved and are now capable of playing in the heat, which the other teams may have struggled with. Q. There has been some concern regarding the lack of form of several Australian players in contrast to those of your Group D opponents. Is this a legitimate concern? A. Our major concern is to make sure everybody is injury free by the time the World Cup kicks off. You've got enough time to prepare and you have to be in form in June, so sometimes those players [who are in form] can't keep that form for that long and some players can just switch on when they have to switch on. I don't think that's a major concern for us - our major concern is to hopefully have the whole team injury free when the time comes. Q. Several members of the team have been plagued by injuries leading up to the tournament. Do you think fitness within the squad is going to be an issue come June 13? A. No, I don't think so. I think we're all going to have enough time to get our fitness back, and with a fitness adviser like Darren Burgess, we're in good hands, especially with the physios as well. I don't think we'll have any problems. Q. What about the depth in the team? A. I think we have good depth with some of the new kids coming in and I think they'll give us a good hand. Q. You've been one of those players on the sidelines lately with a back injury. How's your recovery progressing? A. Everything so far has been very good. I'm progressing well. Q. Are injuries a blessing in disguise, given they force players to rest from their hectic playing schedules? A. I'll say operations are blessings as well because sometimes when you don't get an operation, your club is still pressuring you to play and you're actually playing when you're not well. You're playing at 80% and that's when you start harming your body. Sometimes when you have that operation and you have that time to make sure everything feels properly, you return physically 100% and you've got no problems, so sometimes they are a blessing in disguise. I was playing with a back injury for about two, three months... if I didn't have this operation, there was a big risk of missing the World Cup because playing and overloading something that's not right, there was always that risk. Q. What lessons from 2006 will you take to South Africa? A. All three group games are important. Regardless of what the results are, you've always got a chance to come back or there's always a chance to pass to the next stage. You always have to keep your head up, regardless of what the results are in the first game. Q. Is this Socceroos squad better than that of 2006? A. We've lost some major players but obviously some good players have come through. We have that experience now that we've been to a World Cup and we know what the tournament is all about. We have all the right ingredients. We are coming up against tougher teams but they're beatable, so we have to hope that we're the better team on the day. Q. How did you rate your own performance in 2006? A. Average - nothing crash hot. I think I was capable of doing more and hopefully this time around I'll be better. I had game time [in 2006] but I was expecting to play them all and start them all. Q. There's been a lot more criticism and expectation of the current Socceroos team than four years ago. Is this a good sign, given expectation underlines a sense of belief in the team? A. I think so. If people have high expectations of you, it means that you're capable of doing it. It's good for us, anyway. It puts us under a little bit of pressure but a little bit of pressure never hurt anyone. It keeps you mentally focused and you get the results. Q. It's expected that a number of Socceroos will call time on their international careers after the World Cup. Will the 2010 World Cup be your Socceroos swansong or are you targeting another World Cup appearance at Brazil 2014? A. It's a difficult one but time will tell. I'd love to, but I just have to see how the body copes, so I think it's all going to come down to that. I don't want to half-do something, so if I'm still all right and in great condition, of course I will. Q. FFA technical director Han Berger mentioned how he is worried about the next generation of Socceroos. From a player's point of view, do you share that same concern? A. It's a tough call because all you have to see is where the players that are playing now with the Socceroos, at their age, where were they playing? A lot of the players now, the young boys, they're not playing at a higher level so obviously maybe the standard could drop and make it more difficult for them because they're not playing at a high level like what we were at their age.

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