The Socceroos’ clash with Croatia will be a dress rehearsal for their World Cup opener against Chile but coach Ange Postecoglou is also wary of giving too much away.
Australia face a stern test against world No.20 side Croatia in their final hit-out in Salvador, Brazil on Friday (Saturday AEST) – a week before kicking off their World Cup campaign against Chile.
Postecoglou says he’ll field close to his full-strength side but indicated some tactical plans would be kept under wraps.
“I’m also mindful to surprise the opposition in the first game, that will help not to reveal our whole hand,” he said.
Postecoglou confirmed both Cahill and skipper Mile Jedinak, back from his groin injury, would play against Croatia and the coach fielded what looks set to be his starting side in a training game on Wednesday (Thursday AEST).
Cahill was deployed at the point of attack, with Tommy Oar in a new role for Australia as the playmaker.
Oar has played almost exclusively as a left winger for the Socceroos previously, but he played much of the recent season at his Dutch club as an attacking midfielder through the centre.
Matthew Leckie was switched to the left wing with Ben Halloran on the right while Jedinak and Mark Milligan occupied the holding midfield roles.
Creative midfielder Mark Bresciano would normally feature in the full-strength side but the veteran is still plagued by a back injury and was again consigned to light duties with doubts he will even be ready for the Chile match.
Mat Ryan is in goal while Postecoglou appears to have settled on Alex Wilkinson as Matthew Spiranovic’s partner in the centre of defence.
Ivan Franjic rejoined team training for the first time since injuring his knee in the farewell game against South Africa on May 26 and was back in his usual right-back role with Jason Davidson on the left.
The team combination seemed to suit Cahill, who scored twice in Wednesday’s training game.
The striker who has netted four times in Australia’s last three matches – against Costa Rica, Ecuador and South Africa – says it’s important his teammates know they can count on his finishing.
“I want to keep my training to a high intensity so that come the Chile game the boys will know that once we are over that white line that I am going to give everything,” he said.
“In the last three games I played I have been leading from the front, scoring three goals in four games and really trying to have an impact.
“Whoever I play against, whether it be Croatia or Chile, Holland or Spain I know they are not going to be happy to play against me because I am going to make it the most difficult 90 minutes.”
Cahill recalled Australia’s 2-2 draw with Croatia in 2006 that sealed their passage to the second round of the World Cup as one of “the proudest moments Australian football.”
It will be a vastly different Croatia side they’ll meet on Friday but with stars the likes of Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric, they’ll be just as difficult.
But Cahill is confident Jedinak will be able to silence him.
“He’s an exceptional player, I’ve played against him numerous amount of times,” he said.
“I think Mile will be able to deal with him well if he plays and the boys in the middle.
“The more we get in their faces and upset their rhythm. … We don’t want to make it easy for anyone.”