Socceroos have nothing to fear from Italy
The Socceroos make history when they take on Italy in the Round of 16 stage of the World Cup in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and according to defender Lucas Neill, Australia has a good chance of causing an upset.
The Socceroos make history when they take on Italy in the Round of 16 stage of the World Cup in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and according to defender Lucas Neill Australia has a good chance of causing an upset.
The Socceroos finished second in their group after the first round matches courtesy of a dramatic 3-1 win over Japan and a thrill-a-minute 2-2 draw with Croatia and will now line up against the Azzuri who topped Group E with wins over Ghana and the Czech Republic and a draw with the USA.
But Neill believes Australia has nothing to fear from one of the world's premier teams.
"We've got as many strengths as they (Italy) do now and we are playing with plenty of confidence," said Neill.
"We've got nothing to lose - everything is a bonus for us - no-one expected us to get here so why not go out and knock over a fantastic side full of reputation?
"We've taken on the biggest team now (Brazil) and given them a run for their money and maybe made people stand up and have a look at us.
"Italy, by no means do I consider a lesser team than Brazil and they are one to be respected by why should we fear them?"
Neill believes an edge for Australia in the game against Italy is having master coach Guus Hiddink. The Dutchman engineered South Korea's dismantling of Italy at the last World Cup and all of Australia will be hoping the Socceroos will be able to repeat the feat this time around.
"We've got the Guus factor, grinned Neill.
"He is one of those guys who puts his heart on the line and just says 'Right, I am making big decisions under pressure and I am going to back them and back the guys that are playing' and as a result things happen."
And Neill also feels there's an irresistible build-up of momentum driving the Australian charge at this World Cup.
"There's turning points in every game - not just one, not just two - there's loads and at the moment they are going the right way for us," said Neill after the match against Croatia. But he also added the team needed to work on building a better defence.
"We had another dramatic game and we've put on another good defensive display but we haven't kept a clean sheet yet and as a defender that is all I look for.
"We were solid but we-ve gifted one goal, I think their first goal was an absolute peach, but we-ve come out of the traps slowly and we are going to have to address it because we've given three free kicks away on the edge of the box in the first two minutes of the first three games and at this level you get punished.
"Maybe it was the best thing to happen to us but at the same time it would be nice to go out there and get a lead."
However, Neill reiterated that the confidence throughout the team was paramount making not one, but two dramatic fight-backs.
"Even today I still had the belief," admitted Neill.
"That Aussie spirit comes in again like in the Japan game. I really, really believed all game that we were going to get the result. I never feared Croatia taking a two-goal lead, and at the other end, I always knew we were always capable of scoring."
And the defender, who has been one of the stars for Australia at this World Cup was also quick to defend goal-keeper Zelco Kalac who's second half blunder put the Socceroos under pressure against Croatia.
"I suppose tonight was his chance and I just feel sorry for him that an error I haven't seen him make the whole time we have been together, and he made on the big stage," remarked Neill.