New coach thinks Australia can survive World Cup group stage

Australian national soccer team head coach Bert van Marwijk comments during a press conference at in Sydney, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. New coach van Marwijk is confident Australia can qualify from its World Cup group stage and says he will have the team play his style to get there. (Brendan Esposito/AAP Image via AP)

New coach Bert van Marwijk is confident Australia can qualify from its World Cup group stage and says he will have the team play his style to get there

SYDNEY — New coach Bert van Marwijk is confident Australia can qualify from its soccer World Cup group stage and says he will have the team play his style to get there.

A few hours after arriving in Sydney on Thursday, the Dutch coach said at a media conference that there was nothing wrong with the philosophy of his predecessor, Ange Postecoglou, but said he is a "realistic coach" who will do what it takes to win.

Postecoglou was criticized at times for persevering with a three-man defensive system, and for Australia's lack of finish in front of goal in Asian qualifying when missed opportunities forced them into the difficult playoff route to Russia.

He quit as coach in November a week after leading Australia to a two-legged intercontinental playoff win over Honduras.

"I have respect for the former coach, (but) I do it in my way," van Marwijk said. "I go to the World Cup with only one thing that counts, (and that's) to survive the first round.

Australia will play in Group C at the World Cup with France, Denmark and Peru.

"I'm a realistic coach," van Marwijk said. "I like creative football, I like to have the ball, but I also like to win — that is the most important thing."

Van Marwijk said his biggest challenge was the short time frame he had to familiarize himself with the current players before the World Cup begins in June.

The 65-year-old will have only the international window in March, when Australia play Norway and Colombia in Europe, and perhaps a farewell friendly in Australia.

"I have to get to know the players very well in a very short time," he said. "That makes the challenge for me even greater."

Van Marwijk, who led Saudi Arabia to direct qualification from Australia's group as an opposition coach, saw physicality as the Socceroos' main strength.

"They are strong, physically strong," he said. "The challenge is to let them play in a way that gives them a chance to win games."

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