Milligan: Belief high ahead of battle with France

A bullish Mark Milligan says the Socceroos intensive pre-FIFA World Cup™ build-up and the experience of coach Bert van Marwijk has the team believing they can deal with anything in Russia.

Australia opens their FIFA World Cup™ campaign against European powerhouses France on Saturday night at 8pm (AEST), live on SBS and Optus Sport.

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Describing the training regime in the lead-up to the tournament as “borderline torture”, Milligan – who is at his fourth FIFA World Cup™ - is confident the team is ready to go against the might of Les Bleus.

“I think it’s been a good mix of hard work and the focus on the way that he wants us to play has being good,” he told reporters in Kazan.

“I think you really get the feeling that he’s [van Marwijk] done this before, and he knows how to prepare a team for the first game.

“I think that’s gone through the team – that confidence that he projects really rubs off on us and gives us belief and that’s very, very important.

“I think that the belief has to be high leading into a game like this.”

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Having played the majority of his Socceroos career in midfield, Milligan is set to start in central defence alongside Trent Sainsbury against France.

The 32-year-old has performed strongly in both pre-tournament friendlies against Czech Republic and Hungary but is aware it will be a step-up against France’s impressive strikeforce.

“I think they have quality all over the place and it’s going to be a massive challenge obviously not just for whatever back four takes apart but for the whole team,” Milligan said.

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“It’s been a big focus of ours over the last few weeks – our defensive shape and the way that we do things so we’re under no illusions. it’s going to be a massive challenge but it’s one were looking forward to."

The former Melbourne Victory skipper added: “It’s not always easy being shifted around or not knowing where I was going to play but it’s obviously for me a different way of playing. I have to do things differently.

“I’ve been playing in midfield for a long time, I play different passes, I see things differently. So being able to train in one position definitely makes it easier and also being able to fight for one position sort of gives me a bit more hope.”

Asked about any nerves as their opening game approaches, Milligan says the squad is calm and focused on what they need to do.

“Now we’ve arrived in Russia and we’re able to single in on the France game, the general feeling has probably been a bit more relaxed than the last three and a half weeks that has sometimes been borderline torture,” Milligan said.

“We knew we needed it in the way that we want to do things – in the way we want to defend and the way we want to attack, we have to be at the peak of our powers physically.

“Obviously still a couple of days out so I think the tension will grow as we get a little bit closer but at the moment everybody’s been good, very focussed and looking forward to it.”

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