Mark Milligan believes January’s Asian Cup will be an open tournament but says expectation on the Socceroos must be to win it on home soil.
“Absolutely. The World Cup showed us that if we truly buy into what is being taught and we are willing to work hard and do the hard yards then anything is possible,” the Melbourne Victory star told www.afcasiancup.com
“We take a lot of confidence from the experience at the World Cup and how we performed against world-class sides.
“The World Cup unearthed some great young talent and now Ange has given a few more players a chance in these friendlies. Are there exciting times ahead for the Socceroos, I believe there are.
“We are aware of the generation that came before this side especially the 2006 World Cup side and the legacy they left. It is time for the younger guys to take their chance. So far they haven’t taken a backwards step.”
Milligan will be hoping that trend continues when Ange Postecoglou’s troops take on World no.5 Belgium in Liege on Friday morning (AEST).
The 28-year-old, fresh from signing a new Australian marquee deal with the Victory, will play another key role for the young side and is expected to partner skipper Mile Jedinak in the centre of midfield.
It’s the first of at least six friendlies the Socceroos are likely to play ahead of January’s highly-anticipated tournament.
Despite making the final of the Asian Cup under Holger Osieck in 2011, the Aussies are currently only ranked eighth in the AFC following a difficult last 12 months and disappointing World Cup.
But Milligan believes the side should be aiming to go one better than four years ago, especially with the vocal home support behind them.
“Australia has always shown throughout any qualifications that we’ve been very strong at home and we’ve always had good results,” he said.
“We’ve always been looking to win and have been very hard to break down and that has a lot to do with the support of the Australian people.
“I think with the growth of the A-League over the past few years and the following it has, hopefully we can bring that across to the Socceroos for the tournament. The support will make a massive difference and I’m sure everyone will be jumping on board.”
While anointing Japan and Korea as the biggest threats to Australia’s hopes of winning the Asian Cup, Milligan concedes there are no longer any easy games in the AFC with every nation a chance to go all the way.The Socceroos play Belgium on Thursday 4 September at Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Leige 8.45pm (4.45am AEST) and Saudi Arabia on Monday 8 September at Craven Cottage, London 8.00pm (5am AEST) with both matches to be broadcast LIVE and exclusive on FOX SPORTS.
AFC Asian Cup - Australia 2015
The Socceroos will be looking to win their first AFC Asian Cup when Asia’s biggest football tournament heads to Australia in January 2015.
32 matches over 23 days will be played in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle with the Socceroos kicking off the tournament against Kuwait in Melbourne on January 9.
Socceroos tickets start from $49 for adults and $24.50 for children.
All other group matches start from just $15 for adults and $5 for children.