Australia has struggled with a three-man backline, with only two victories from their six games whilst using the controversial 3-2-4-1 formation installed by coach Ange Postecoglou at the start of the year.
The Socceroos have beaten the UAE and Saudia Arabia, but drew with Iraq and Cameroon, and suffered defeats at the hands of Brazil and Germany. Most recently they had a 1-1 draw with the African champions at the Confederations Cup in St Petersburg, meaning they now must beat Chile by at least two goals to stay alive in the tournament.
Postecoglou’s tactics have come in for heavy criticism from both supporters and the media, but the central defender at the heart of the much-criticised back three insists the Socceroos are their own harshest judges.
“Everyone’s going to have their opinions about the style of football we’re playing and the way we want to play,” Sainsbury said.
“I think this group knows what our objective is, we know the goals that we’ve set for each other and to put it all together into practice on the pitch it’s not going to all click at once.
“It’s going to take time. At the end of the day we’re our harshest critics. So if we have a bad game we’re going to talk about it. But games are like buses, there’s another one around the corner.
“I know this team is so close to doing something special.”
Sainsbury has been the central defender who has appeared most comfortable as part of a back three. The Socceroos have conceded 11 goals in six matches in 2017, but it is a statistic the Jiangsu Suning centre back isn’t overly concerned about.
“The Brazil game, obviously we conceded four, but we made six subs in about five minutes, so it’s a little difficult,” he said.
“Obviously it’s not nice as a defender to concede goals. But at the same time we’re still scoring goals, which is always a positive and we’re creating a lot of chances.
“That’s the objective of this team – to be really offensive and attack-minded. Further down the track we’ll be the team that everyone fears to face.”
Australia faces Chile in Moscow on Sunday night (Monday morning AEST). Anything less than a comprehensive victory over La Roja will see the Socceroos eliminated.
Sainsbury will be tasked with keeping Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez and Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal quiet at Spartak Stadium.
“It’s going to be a nice challenge,” he said.
“Every team in the world would love to have those two in their side so we’re going to embrace it. Do our best to stop them causing a lot of trouble.”