Christian Bassogog (left) of Cameroon and Trent Sainsbury of Australia.
Christian Bassogog (left) of Cameroon and Trent Sainsbury of Australia. ANATOLY MALTSEV

Socceroos not giving up on Cup progression

TRENT Sainsbury accepts that few people outside the camp will be giving the Socceroos any genuine hope of securing the two-goal victory over Chile they require to reach the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

But the defender insists that, within the squad, belief is running high and progress is still there for the taking.

"We're always going to back ourselves," he said. "We're going to be confident going out there and we want to finish the tournament on a high. We want to get through to the next round."

Defeat to Germany in their opening fixture and a 1-1 draw with Cameroon last outing has left Australia with a monumental task in needing to roll over the South American champions.

After a bruising contest against a physical Cameroon side, a different challenge awaits in the form of Chile's exciting raft of nippy, energetic forwards, Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal and the in-form Eduardo Vargas principal among them. Yet Sainsbury is unfazed by the jarring shift in opposition strengths, insisting Australia will have done their homework and be well prepared.

"We'll analyse their game and the way they play," he said. "That's international football, you're never going to have the same tactics twice.

"I think they're a good solid team. A few years ago they weren't doing the best but with a new coach [Argentine Jorge Sampaoli], he brought a very dynamic approach, a new attacking approach and it's been working for them well."


Australia's Jackson Irvine falls between teammate Milos Degenek, left, and Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar during the Confederations, Cup Group B soccer match between Cameroon and Australia, at the St.Petersburg stadium in St.Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, June 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Australia's Jackson Irvine falls between teammate Milos Degenek and Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar. Dmitri Lovetsky

Sainsbury sees parallels in Chile's ascent to the top end of world football with what the Socceroos are trying to achieve under Ange Postecoglou. In population terms Chile is a nation similar in size to Australia, yet they are competing with - and beating - all comers. Something Sainsbury believes is possible with the current Socceroos squad, if they stick to their principles and work ethic.

"We've got to use our values as a sporting nation," he said. "You look at every other sport in Australia and at some stage we've been No.1. I don't understand why we can't do that in football.

"But I think it starts with my generation now to have that mindset, you've got to go out there and implement a game plan that's going to get us to that stage.

Sainsbury was one of Australia's standout players against Cameroon, putting in shift that defied his recent lack of playing time. Loaned in January from Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League to Italian giants Inter Milan (who are owned by the same group), minutes on the pitch were limited to a substitute's appearance in the final game of the season.

However, training with and learning from some the best players and coaches in Europe, the exercise has nonetheless been a positive one for him.

"I think I'm doing well. My body is hanging in there from not playing for a while," Sainsbury said. "Training in Inter Milan is very physical and quick and you're among great players.

"But game time is always different from training so I think I'm doing well for the lack of minutes I've had in the legs."

The games come around quickly at the Confederations Cup - the Chile clash will be a third match in seven days - but Sainsbury is keen ensure Monday morning's group decider won't be his or the team's last in the competition. To do so would be a massive achievement for this Socceroos squad. Though Sainsbury's ambitions stretch well beyond rising for a one off result.

"It'd be a big achievement. But I don't want to be the nation that just looks to knock off one scalp every two years," he said. "I want to be the nation that knocks off every scalp every year."