They might have lost against France but the Socceroos’ showing in their World Cup opener has doubled the team’s trust in coach Bert van Marwijk and his coaching unit.

Australia fell just short of a major boilover against the French, coming within nine minutes of a draw against one of the tournament favourites.

After the match, the Socceroos were full of praise for van Marwijk’s game plan, with no talk of second-guessing the boss.

Such disunity can be death at international tournaments.

There are certainly players on the sidelines that might wish they were playing a larger role, but there’s no doubt that Australia is moving forward, united, in Russia.

“There’s an immense atmosphere of positivity,” striker Tomi Juric said.

“The way we played was really fantastic. We can take that forward into Denmark and Peru … I’m immensely positive of our chances of getting out of this group.”


Much of that is down to van Marwijk’s team.

The 66-year-old has used his experience wisely to assemble a backroom staff catering to every need.

In all, 10 Dutch staff have been brought in among the existing infrastructure, bringing the total support team to 34 in Russia.

Mark van Bommel, Jurgen Dirkx, Roel Coumans and Ante Milicic are assistants to van Marwijk, with further support staff assisting the football side as well as a dedicated physio team, strength and conditioning team and other staffers.

Centre-back and vice captain Trent Sainsbury called the squad Australia’s “background banditos”.

The glue that works around the more rigid coaching elements is Mile Sterjovski.


The long-time Socceroos striker and 2006 World Cup attendee’s title is ‘player adviser’, acting as the shoulder to cry on, the wise head to call on, or the mediator when things get heated.

“My role is basically to advise the players and to make sure they’re focused on every training session, every game, and take the load off the older players – Mile (Jedinak), Timmy (Cahill), Mark Milligan,” Sterjovksi told AAP.

“Sometimes it’s at training. If I see something that needs mentioning, I’ll go up to them quickly.

“I also look at their body language when they’re eating. When they’re in the social rooms. I just start up a chat and see how they’re doing.

“I might pick up some signs and go up to them afterwards.

“It could be friction between players. I aim to iron all that out and make sure everything’s good within the team.”


Sterjovski said every player had different needs – from 19-year-old Daniel Arzani to all-time leading scorer Cahill.

“The boys and the staff have been so professional,” he said.

“Our strength is being together with high morale … it’s always difficult when a new coach with new ways comes in.

“They understood it would take a bit of time to get things right.

“We definitely know what he wants from the team and the team knows that, and they’re working towards it.”