Mile Jedinak set to captain Australia at their first FIFA Confederations Cup for 12 years
Australia have previously reached one Confederations Cup final and one semi-final
'Our proud history at the Confederations Cup illustrates the Australian mentality,' says Jedinak
Now in his fourth year as Australia captain, Mile Jedinak is on the cusp of becoming the first player to lead the Socceroos to two senior men’s world tournaments. Having donned the armband for Australia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the central midfielder is set to captain the Socceroos when they tackle Germany, Chile and Cameroon in June’s FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
Jedinak, who now plies his trade at Aston Villa, spoke with FIFA.com about the challenges of playing against the world’s best, the Socceroos’ rapid development under coach Ange Postecoglou and his memories of the Australia’s previous successes at the Confederations Cup.
FIFA.com: What are the positives of competing at Russia 2017 against some of the best teams in the world?
Mile Jedinak: Playing in any major tournament is always exciting and an important part of the evolution of our team. The Confederations Cup gives us at least three matches against world class nations and the chance to win a major international trophy, which doesn’t come around too often. There are also obvious benefits of acclimatisation to Russia 12 months out from the World Cup. We will play in some of the World Cup stadiums and get a little taste of local culture, customs and environment, which will give us a slight advantage for the 2018 World Cup.
What do you think of your Russia 2017 group having played Germany and Chile at the past two World Cups?
It’s a challenging group but that’s what we expect when we are playing in a tournament of champions. The Confederations Cup brings the best countries around the world together and there are no easy games. Germany are the current World Cup champions, but we played them two years ago in Germany and drew 2-2. We know we can compete against the best teams in the world and after a slow start against Chile at the 2014 World Cup we also showed the world we can compete with the best. Cameroon are recent champions of Africa and all three games will give us a good challenge and slightly different styles of football to what we face throughout Asian World Cup qualifying.
What differences can world football fans expect to see from Australia in Russia compared to three years ago at Brazil 2014?
In Brazil we still had a very young group and we were on a fast learning trajectory. We showed in Brazil that we could compete but ultimately we lost three games. We have been on a journey with the boss (Postecoglou) to assert ourselves on matches and to not only qualify for the World Cup, but start implementing a style of play that will allow us to make an impact at the 2018 World Cup. The Confederations Cup in Russia will be an important step along that path.
Australia has a strong record at the Confederations Cup. Is the current side capable of making an impact again this year?
We do have a proud history of performing well at the Confederations Cup and that illustrates the Australian mentality when we are faced with a challenge. We’re going to Russia to show the world how far we’ve come as a football nation.
Having been captain at Brazil 2014, what kind of honour is it to lead your country at a major tournament?
Representing Australia on the football field is a tremendous honour - the greatest honour you can achieve as a footballer - but to lead the team onto the pitch and into battle at a World Cup is another level altogether. It is not only a great personal honour but something for my family and friends to enjoy.
Do you have fond memories of watching the Socceroos at previous Confederations Cups, such as Australia beating France and Brazil in 2001, or Australia making the final in 1997?
Of course. Remembering the past performances and deeds of our national team is a strong part of what drives us as a team. Being a member of the Australian national team is an honour but we must respect those who came before us and inspire the young kids who dream of following in our footsteps. I have memories of the 2001 Confederations Cup and remember the lift the wins over France and Brazil gave our game back home.
1997 is a bit further back but as a young teenager I remember that most of that team which went so close to qualifying for the 1998 World Cup. The team was a great blend of youth and experience with guys like Graham Arnold, Aurelio Vidmar, Alex Tobin, Ned Zelic and Robbie Slater joined by younger players such as Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, John Aloisi and Josip Skoko. It was the end for the older guys, who were pioneers for our sport in Europe, but the start of a great period for Australian football.
Mile Jedinak in numbers
70 caps – Only Tim Cahill has more among the current squad
28 appearances as captain – Only five players have bettered that figure for Australia
1 - Mile Jedinak is the only player to lead Australia to an AFC Asian Cup win