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Milicic: World Cup results won't derail Socceroos project

A key member of the backroom staff says the side have no intention of being knocked off their chosen path of progression regardless of the outcome in Brazil

Feature interview
By Iain Strachan

It's no surprise Ante Milicic was handpicked by Ange Postecoglou to help overhaul Australia's national team - the assistant coach shares the passion of his boss for playing football the right way and boasts the same unswering commitment to making it a fundamental part of the Socceroos' DNA.

Postecoglou is synonymous with the crisp passing game which took Brisbane Roar to successive A-League titles in 2011 and 2012, while Milicic is better known for his work helping Tony Popovic to create one of the most dogged, organised teams the competition has seen at Western Sydney Wanderers.

A combination of that silk and steel has been identified as the way forward for a Socceroos side playing some serious catch up in international football, a harsh environment where standing still will leave you going backwards fast.

That was the chief accusation levelled at former head coach Holger Osieck, whose tenure has left Postecoglou and his assistant with close to a blank canvas as they seek to re-work the men in green and gold.

But after another encouraging performance in the 1-0 loss to Croatia on Friday (Saturday morning AEST), the majority of observers believe the team are finally moving in the right indirection, thanks in no small part to the Postecoglou's right-hand man.

"We're trying to develop a style of game that hasn't been in Australia for a while but it's the way forward with a young group and that's what we're trying to do," Milicic told Goal Australia.

"We're trying to build a certain technical style of playing.

"And to go forward on the international stage, you have to be technically advanced to be able to play in tight areas, to be able to play under pressure, to have good decisions when there's not a lot of time and space.

"That's an area of our game we're trying to work towards getting better and improving. It doesn't happen overnight, we understand that. But we'll do our best. Every minute of the time we have together is important."

After friendlies against Costa Rica, Ecuador, South Africa and Croatia, the Postecoglou era faces a competitive baptism of fire against Chile on Friday (Saturday morning AEST).

But even when discussing the threat posed by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and his world-class team-mates, Milicic remains firmly on message about the way the Socceroos must approach the game.

"The amount of chances they (Chile) create, not only as a team but through individual class is evident," he said.

"They're very strong at pressing, they're a very aggressive, physical side. We'll respect all our opponents but at the same time we have to concentrate on our game and go there and play without fear. We have to play our game, believe in it and keep going with it. That's the only way that we can move forward."

Australia have fielded both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 under Postecoglou but, according to Milicic, supporters should not expect a sudden late change to a defensive formation in Cuiaba.

"You identify things with the opposition (to focus on) but in terms of our own philosophy in playing football and trying to play forward and keeping possession, I think the philosophy won't change and the mindset that we create with that," he said.

"There are some games where maybe with your formation, there's different ways to play a certain formation. And maybe you can adapt with the players you have available and with the opposition's strengths or weaknesses.

"But I think you'll see with the national team the way Ange wants, we'll believe a lot in our way of playing. If we can improve that and get that right, it will give us the best chance of moving forward with this group."

A rough ride surely awaits the Socceroos in Group B. But whatever happens against Chile, the Netherlands and Spain, there is zero chance of Postecoglou or Milicic giving up on or tempering their cherished football ideals. Surely Australian football will be better for it.

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