Football - Socceroos fearless, Japan and Korea quietly confident

Clubbed in a veritable group of death for next year's World Cup, Australia believe they can spring a surprise while fellow Asian qualifiers Japan, South Korea and Iran were more cautious with their optimism despite being dealt kinder draws.

Reuters

Grouped with both finalists from the last World Cup along with Chile, the Socceroos, thrashed 6-0 by Brazil and France in recent months, will probably need a miracle to progress from the group stage but midfielder Tommy Oar felt his side could excel without the shackles of high expectations.

"In our group we're probably least likely in terms of favourites to go through," Oar told Fox Sports News on Saturday.

"But I think that's perfect because when we go into games we have nothing to lose and we have nothing to fear," said the 21-year-old Utrecht player.

The Socceroos, playing in their fourth World Cup and only progressing from the group stage once in 2006, open their Group B campaign against Chile on June 13 before taking on the Dutch on June 18 and holders Spain five days later.

"We can just try and go for it and the pressure will be on the other teams," said Oar.

"It will be a great experience and I definitely think we can turn a few heads."

Drawn with Ivory Coast, Colombia and Greece in Group C, Japan have a much more favourable passage ahead and coach Alberto Zaccheroni was optimistic, if they can get off to a fast start.

"If we can play to the best of our ability then we can be a threat. I am confident," the Italian was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

"Obviously getting off to a good start is important."

Asian champions Japan, who have twice made it to the last 16 in four World Cup appearance, meet Ivory Coast on June 14 before facing Greece (June 19) and Colombia (June 24) in conditions they expect would be similar to what they experienced in Brazil during the Confederations Cup in June.

"It will be hot and humid at the stadium and that is something that the African players are used to. We really need to be fully prepared," the Italian added.

ENJOY

A benign draw has also boosted South Korea's chance of progressing from Group H which contains Belgium, Russia and Algeria. Head coach Hong Myong-bo insisted, though, it was far from a cakewalk.

"People may think that it's an easy group, but that's not true," Hong was quoted as saying by the Asian Football Confederation.

"We shouldn't underestimate any of our opponents because they're all strong teams that are capable of going through," said the former member of the Korean team that reached the last four of the 2002 World Cup on home soil.

Korea begin their eighth consecutive World Cup finals campaign against Russia, who they lost 2-1 to last month, on June 17, before clashing with Algeria (June 22) and Belgium (June 26).

"We played a friendly against Russia in November but we will have to study them again, as things have changed," said Hong.

"Only good sides make it to the World Cup so we'll not only have to keep an eye on Russia, but on Belgium and Algeria too," he added.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not place any burden of expectation on the shoulders of his players, asking them instead to enjoy the experience of playing in a group which twice champions Argentina are expected to win.

Queiroz's side, who have never been beyond the group stage in three previous World Cups, will also face African powerhouse Nigeria and newcomers Bosnia.

"For my players, it should be an honour to play against these rivals and it is important they go out and enjoy every minute of every match, eager to make it to the second round," said the former Portugal, South Africa and UAE manager.

"The key will be in our preparation. If we work hard, we will have a good opportunity. If not, we won't be in a position to take our chance."

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