Advance Australia: Moore gives Socceroos a fighting chance
CRAIG Moore has achieved something only a few Australian footballers have done - qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup finals.
Moore, who played 52 times for the Socceroos between 1995 and 2010, scored the first equaliser from the penalty spot in Australia's 2-2 draw with Croatia which took them through to a last-16 clash with Italy in Germany in 2006.
The Aussies lost that match 1-0 to a controversial Francesco Totti penalty in injury time.
That side is still the only Australian team to reach the second round at the World Cup finals.
While many pundits can't see Bert van Marwijk's team following suit when the tournament begins this wee
"We can qualify. There's no doubt about that. But everything must fall into place," Moore, now 42, said.
"It's a very tough group. France is ranked seventh in the world, Peru 11th and Denmark 12th.
"Outside the squad, when Australia goes to World Cups the reality is people don't think we will qualify for the next round. That will be something in house that will be firing that group up to go out and prove people wrong.
"You need a bit of luck in tournaments but I have no doubt that if we go there and we play to our strengths, we have every chance of putting ourselves in a situation where we can qualify through the group."
Australia meets France on Saturday in their first game of Group C.
Moore said it was important for Australia to focus solely on that game and not look ahead to the matches against Denmark on June 21 and Peru six days later.
"Game one is very important. There's no getting away from the fact that we are playing against a very good side and it's going to be a tough start," Moore said.
"The focus will be on making sure the team are organised, that they are competing and have the hunger and desire and at this level that's the bare minimum.
"It's about trying to execute when you get the opportunity.
"The longer we can be competitive and frustrate teams the better it will be. But at the same time we must look for an outlet and look to attack when we get the opportunity.
"If we can do those things and get a bit of luck then anything is possible."
When Australia defeated Uruguay in the playoffs to reach the 2006 World Cup in Germany, pundits and fans alike had not expected much from the Socceroos.
But a team including Moore, Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka and Tim Cahill set the benchmark for future Australian teams.
"In 2006 not only had we waited 32 years to qualify for a second World Cup, it was the first time we got out of the group stage," Moore said.
"Qualifying for World Cups is no longer the benchmark, it's about whether you can go deeper into the tournament.
"As a football nation, we haven't progressed as well as we would have liked but at the same time I thought we played fantastically well in a 'group of death' in 2014, with Chile, Holland and Spain.
"Anything can happen. You have got to make sure you are prepared. Make sure the squad players are focused because you are not winning this tournament as an individual.
"It's going to be a great team performance and that's including the staff, the back-room team and every player. Substitutes are important in today's game. Everyone's got a part to play."
Moore picked Brazil and Germany to be there at the pointy end as per normal.
But said an England team, while short of superstars like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard could also shine and possibly end the years of hurt after their only World Cup success on home soil in 1966.
"England are now starting to have that success at international level with the younger sides and there are a few who are in this squad who have come through those programs and those successes more importantly," Moore said.
"Winning is part of their DNA, part of their culture.
"I don't think England have the issues they might have had in the past where they still had a competitive environment in the squad instead of one which wanted to work well together
"I think they are a dangerous team. I think England can win it."