Socceroos looking forward to challenge of facing France: Milligan

Socceroos stalwart Mark Milligan is gearing up for his fourth World Cup, and he is optimistic the draw has given Australia a chance of progressing beyond the group stage and make their presence felt.

Milligan also believes that the legacy left by former national team coach Ange Postecoglou will be maintained in the way the Socceroos approach the challenges they face in Russia.

Although Australia must take on superpower France first up, Milligan said that should be seen as a reason for motivation rather than despondency.

"It's always tough, it doesn't matter who you draw, but it's going to be a good challenge for us to start with France - it's very exciting. We all know that if you want to progress through the group you must start well and there is no bigger challenge than that.

"It's what we have been building for over the past four years. If we have a good lead-up, we have got the group [of players] to go through and do well."

The example and mindset that Postecoglou has impressed on the squad - not to fear any opponent - is now ingrained, Milligan said.

"I think that's in the group now, that belief - whoever comes in next (as coach) will be lucky to do so because he will be inheriting a good group of footballers and a good group of people."

The last time the two nations met, France won 6-0. That is immaterial now, according to Milligan.

"There's been a lot of change since then. That was Holger's (Osieck) last game, there's been a lot of player rotation since then and a lot of water under the bridge.

"While we do remember it, it's more a pride thing. We want to make sure those things don't happen to us as a nation again.

"We can take some confidence from the past few years. The Confederations Cup, which was in Russia as well [in June], you don't get much tougher competition than Germany, Cameroon and Chile. (Australia came third in the group.)

"The way we qualified [beating Syria and then Honduras in sudden-death play-offs], although we might have stumbled a little bit, we finished very strong.

"These are the sorts of things that help build this group and bring them together; not just the 23, but the 30 to 40 players who have been involved across the journey. We have all been looking forward to qualifying, and seeing what happens."

But in the immediate term, Milligan's focus is on his club side. Melbourne Victory have seen at least one false dawn this season, when they won their first match of the campaign in round seven away in Perth only to come crashing down to reality with a heavy loss the following week in Newcastle, when Milligan was sent off early.

Having served his suspension watching his teammates' stirring come-from-behind win against Wellington last weekend (Victory were 2-0 down before coming back to win 3-2), he is adamant that performance has to be the springboard for the club to reboot its premiership hopes.

Victory, on 10 points, play Adelaide (11) on Friday night and Milligan says simply: "We need to make sure we back up. We need to string a couple together. We started that on the weekend against Wellington."

He admitted that reining in the teams in front is not going to be straightforward.

"Sydney have skipped out a bit at the moment, but everything else is very tight. With a few home games coming up, we want to make sure we capitalise, which we haven't done this far.

"It's a good match-up on Friday, and a good result will put us in a good place leading to Christmas."

The week's rest through suspension helped Milligan recover after a torrid period helping the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup.

"I feel good. The last couple of months have been tough, but it's good now just to be able to focus purely on Victory and on what we need to do. Going straight from camp on another week's away trip was tough, to be able to settle down in Melbourne on a daily basis and just have this to worry about has been helpful.

"There are no other distractions now. We haven't had the greatest start. They (Adelaide) are coming off an unlucky result last week and they will want to redeem themselves. If we start well and take our chances we will make it very difficult for them."

Milligan is expecting the Reds, under new German coach Marco Kurtz, to be quite direct in their approach at Etihad Stadium.

"I don't think they mess around with it at the back. They do try to play, but they like to play in the front third. We need to keep the ball, to get them in good areas and dominate because we are at home."

This story Socceroos looking forward to challenge of facing France: Milligan first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.