Former Socceroo turned football pundit Robbie Slater believes the lack of fear within Australia’s youthful line-up will prove an advantage as the squad undergoes final preparations for their World Cup campaign.
The Socceroos face an uphill battle to qualify from the ‘Group of Death,’ having been drawn alongside World Champions Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.
Slater, who is hosting the Hyundai VIP Fan Park Experience at The Star Sydney during the tournament, conceded there are weaknesses in the current crop of players.
But the 49-year-old is adamant coach Ange Postecoglou’s decision to put his faith in generation next will pay dividends in the near future.
“I think one of the strengths with young players is that you don't get fear,” Slater told FourFourTwo. “You have a lot of self-belief when you're young.
“This side knows where it's at, knows the task ahead is very difficult, and is looking forward to the challenge - I see that as a strength.
“I think our regeneration is a strength - it's something we needed to do. It might not look to be one of our strengths in a week's time when we take Spain and the others, but going forward it has to be.
“In some ways our strength is also a weakness. The central defence is probably the biggest weakness for us given the injuries to key players and the difficulty we've had with that position over the years.
“"Matthew Spiranovic is young. Alex Wilkinson is experienced at a club level but that central pairing is inexperienced at an international level – so that will be very interesting.”
Slater also challenged the experienced members of the squad to step up to the difficult task at hand, identifying Tim Cahill’s killer instinct in front of goal as Ange’s key to prevailing against the world’s best sides.
“I think the fact that there's not many appearances in our starting 11(is also interesting),” he continued. “Take Timmy (Cahill) and (Mile) Jedinak out and there's not many caps in there.
“Obviously, on an individual level, one of our strengths is having someone like (Tim) Cahill in that team and in that squad for the experience he brings and his ability to pop up and score goals - he's going to need to.
“Also key to the squad is Maty Ryan who's going to be our number one keeper. He's filling massive boots in Mark Schwarzer's. And you'd expect, given our group, he's going to be quite a busy boy. He's certainly going to be a key player."
Having recently slumped to a one-nil loss and a one-all draw to Croatia and South Africa respectively, Ange’s ‘crossing’ tactic has come under intense scrutiny, with fans and media alike suggesting that the predictability factor is costing the team dearly in front of goal.
Slater said Postecoglou may continue to tinker with the team’s tactics ahead of the Socceroos’ crunch matches.
“I'm looking forward to both wingers - Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie,” he mused.
“Postecoglou's got to try different things at training, though. He obviously might want to get Halloran in the team and to get him and Leckie in he's going to have to move Tommy centrally."
As for Australia’s chances, the former midfielder remains hopeful of a shock progression: “I think the other three teams are clearly a class above us.
“One thing I'm sure of is that we'll see a lot of pride in the Australian shirt and hopefully we get something out of it - which I'm sure we will.
“My head says we're going to finish last but my heart's hoping for something different."
Win the Hyundai VIP Fan Park Experience hosted by Slater at The Star Sydney. The prize includes return flights to Sydney, five star accommodation at The Star and VIP seating for the Australia-Netherlands game on Thursday June 19 and much much more. For more information on how to win click here<http://www.fourfourtwo.com/au/win/win-hyundai-vip-fan-park-experience>. Entry closes at 23:59 on Thursday 12th June.