For Australia, it cannot get any tougher than what they face in the upcoming World Cup after drawing Spain, Holland and Chile in Group B.
Most will think that Australian soccer is doomed, not only for who they are placed alongside within the group but also what could face them in the next stage, which most likely would be favourites Brazil.
For the more aware and realistic football fans, though, being involved in this group is a salivating thought. As a relatively young footballing nation we need to develop and improve, and matches against teams of this calibre will teach us immense lessons. You need to be competitive against the best to prove your worth.
Teams endure the rigours of World Cup qualifiers for almost two-and-a-half years and the prize is to reach this stage, which is the pinnacle of the sport and of course for players the highlight of their careers.
If you ask any Australian player if they would rather play teams from Colombia, Greece or Cote D’Ivoire or be on the same field as the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, surely they would pick the latter.
It is important not to be ignorant and expect Australia to have a major impact in a competition of this calibre. It takes generation upon generations of footballing pedigree to even compete in one and it is a testament to our progress that we have qualified for three World Cups in a row.
The good old Aussie spirit can sometimes be mistaken for ignorance highlighted with some comments from 2006 citing that because we nearly beat Italy we could have won the World Cup - a comment that is laughable.
So what now for the Socceroos? The tournament is seven months away and they need nothing more to inspire them than the quality of opponents they will face.
They will prepare themselves mentally, tactically and physically for Spain, Holland and Chile and as a result will be better for it. Australia’s lack of expectation in this group will enable them to play without pressure and hopefully play good football.
All the pressure will be against their opponents. This is what upsets are made of - remember South Korea and Turkey in 2002?
It is now imperative for David Gallop and the FFA to provide the Socceroos with the utmost professional support in regards to preparation. Organisation both on and off the field is key to success in any tournament and the FFA must step up and ensure tranquillity over the next seven months and throughout the competition.
The display the team produced in 2006 was treated with much pride because of the way they showed character, grit and belief and as a result became a lasting memory in the annals of Australian sport.
It is imperative for Ange Postecoglu to draw from that experience and motivate his team. He has seven months to instil confidence in his men and build on that for this tournament.
Furthermore, a strong display here could give them momentum for the upcoming Asian Cup, a tournament they have a great chance in winning and would be a major boost for football in Australia.
The beauty of football is that, on their day, anyone can beat anyone. The FFA - as well as Aussie football fans - need to realise that progress for us does not necessarily mean winning.
Progress for us in this tournament is about producing effort, competitiveness and, as clichéd as it sounds, good spirit. It is completely logical to write the Australians off in this group but at the same time on any day on any field anybody can beat anybody.
What better way to show to the country and the rest of the world that football in Australia is here to stay than a competitive display against Spain, Holland and Chile at the 2014 World Cup.
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