Australia not intimidated by Brazil, says Hiddink
MELBOURNE, May 21 (Reuters) - Australia coach Guus Hiddink says his inexperienced side are not intimidated by the prospect of facing mighty Brazil in the group phase of the World Cup finals in Germany next month.
Dutchman Hiddink, who led the Netherlands and South Korea to the semi-finals in 1998 and 2002, also told a news conference on Sunday his team were serious about reaching the second round.
'We respect them a lot and their way of playing but this is a team not easily intimidated,' said Hiddink, whose Dutch side lost to Brazil on penalties in the 1998 semis in France.
Hiddink takes Australia into their first finals campaign for 32 years on the back of consistent qualification performances that saw them finally book their place among the world's elite after a penalty shootout against Uruguay in November.
Drawn alongside reigning champions Brazil, Croatia and Japan in Group F, Hiddink believes his charges deserve their place at the top table.
'We like to make a big game of this. They have the advantage of experience and quality but playing against Australia is not easy.
'I played Brazil in the semi-finals in 1998, that was a tough and good quality game. Now (I'm with) Australia, it's a good challenge.
'We know all the (Brazilian) players so well but I like that they enjoy it. Being favourites in the World Cup I think this is a good quality to have.
'In the middle of all the publicity and commercial activities they stick to football and they enjoy it.'
The Dutchman admitted Carlos Alberto Parreira's team were clearly the strongest team in Group F, but the rest of the group were evenly matched.
'They are favourites for the title and everyone expects Brazil to win all three games in the group. But there are three competitors that are very evenly matched.'
A record crowd of 95,000 is expected to give the Socceroos a memorable send-off in their final friendly on home soil before the tournament against European champions Greece at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.
The 23-man squad, minus Harry Kewell who is undergoing treatment for a groin strain in England, will fly to Europe the following day for tune-up matches against the Netherlands in Rotterdam (June 4) and Liechtenstein in Ulm, Germany (June 7).
Hiddink said he would have a better idea of the make-up of his side for the World Cup opener against Japan after the friendly against the Dutch.
'Holland will be a good game to make a judgement. It will be a good test against a side so high in the world rankings.
'As we focus more on strategy and tactics it will be an important game.'
Australia open their campaign against the Japanese in Kaiserslautern on June 12 and, though wary of his opponents' capabilities, Hiddink was quietly confident.
'Japan has the advantage after being in the World Cup several times, but it will be a tight game.
'Japan is a team that can make surprises but my team are very very ambitious to get into the second round so we can make a good first step.'