Group D rivals confident
Antic and Neil buoyant ahead of crunch clash in Nelspruit
Last Updated: 23/06/10 12:04pm
Antic: Optimistic of progression
Serbia and Australia have both talked up their chances of reaching the World Cup knockout stages when they clash on Wednesday night.
Of the two sides, the Serbians are in pole position to book their place in the second round of the South Africa finals after their stunning win over Germany last Friday.
A win would guarantee a place in the last 16 and it would be the first time they have been beyond the group stages of a World Cup tournament.
And Radomir Antic believes his Eastern European side can make history at Nelspruit.
"We know that we have an opportunity of historical significance and we will try to do our best," said the Serbia coach, after seeing his side train on the Mbombela Stadium pitch.
"I would not like to put any additional pressure on my boys by saying they have to, but when I say I believe in my team, I say it quite truthfully. I am not just saying it.
"I am optimistic because I know how my boys have performed during their last three training sessions - these were actually the best three sessions ever.
"This shows their spirit and now we have an opportunity to show it."
Serbia have six players on yellow cards, which could become a problem in the knockout phase, but at least have Aleksandar Lukovic back from suspension.
A draw might even be sufficient for Serbia, depending on the outcome of Ghana versus Germany at Soccer City in Johannesburg, but Australia definitely have no such luxury.
The Socceroos have endured a tough time in the tournament, thrashed 4-0 by Germany and then pegged back to a draw by Ghana after having a man sent off in each game.
With just one point and such a poor goal difference, Pim Verbeek's men must win - and probably convincingly - to stand any chance of progressing to the next stage.
Yet after qualifying for the event with ease, Australia are not prepared to give up lightly.
"I urge everybody to believe like the team believes," said Captain Lucas Neill. "There is still hope, there is still an opportunity.
"This team in the last three or four days has truly believed.
"We are not getting carried away, we know it is going to be a tough ask, but I would urge Australia, people watching back home, that this could be a history-writing game.
"I think you might be surprised - someone might come up to become a hero tonight."
Australia will be boosted by the return of Tim Cahill after suspension but Harry Kewell and Craig Moore are now banned.