Football: Neill hopes Australia have turned the corner but they face uphill task

It has been a testing two months for Australia's national football team but defender Lucas Neill (above) believes the Socceroos will emerge stronger under their new manager and said next year's World Cup finals was no place to experiment with younger
It has been a testing two months for Australia's national football team but defender Lucas Neill (above) believes the Socceroos will emerge stronger under their new manager and said next year's World Cup finals was no place to experiment with younger players. -- PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - It has been a testing two months for Australia's national football team but defender Lucas Neill believes the Socceroos will emerge stronger under their new manager and said next year's World Cup finals was no place to experiment with younger players.

The veteran defender was stripped of the captaincy by new coach Ange Postecoglou and faces a fight just to secure his place in the team, let alone lead the Socceroos onto the pitch in Brazil in 2014.

Postecoglou replaced the sacked Holger Osieck last month in the wake of humiliating back-to-back 0-6 losses to Brazil and France, and Neill said his team mates would quickly adjust to the new coach's way of doing things.

"It's been an eventful month for Australian football to say the least," the 35-year-old said in a column for Japan's Kyodo News on Monday.

"Recent results against Brazil and France were disastrous, and the Australian public has a right to be upset. While it's important for Australia to constantly test themselves against the best in world football, it is equally unacceptable to perform so poorly."

Postecoglou has just a handful of friendlies to turn an ageing, dispirited squad into a side that can do Australia proud in their third successive World Cup finals.

"Change, in my experience, brings out the best in people for the simple reason that everyone starts off with a clean slate and has to work hard to prove his worth, irrespective of age or reputation," said Neill, who will seek to impress his new coach at a Socceroos training camp in Sydney.

"The competition forces everybody to up their standards, to impress upon the new coach their value to the side."

Neill said calls for a root-and-branch overhaul of the squad to blood younger players at the World Cup and build for the future instead of focusing on results in Brazil were beyond his comprehension.

"We've qualified for a World Cup, and we must arrive there with the team best equipped to meet the challenges of the competition," said Neill, who plays in the Japanese top flight with Omiya Ardija.

"After all, this current team carries the hopes and pride of a nation, representing all Australians."