Liberated Leckie ready to fire against France as a free man

Mathew Leckie admits he’s a enjoying a new sense of freedom with the national team as he eyes punching holes in France’s defence when Australia begin their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign on Saturday.

Burdened by defensive responsibilities during the back end of Ange Postecoglou’s four-year reign in a wing-back role he never relished, Leckie has been liberated by Bert van Marwijk.

His two goals in the 4-0 warm-up win over the Czech Republic showed how damaging an unfettered Leckie can be, and he fully intends to give his Les Bleus opposite number Benjamin Mendy a nightmare in Kazan.

An often frustrated figure as he found himself playing as a de facto defender in Ange Postecoglou’s 3-2-5-1 formation, Leckie is flourishing again in his current manager’s 4-2-3-1 configuration, albeit with a slight stutter in last weekend’s fumbling 2-1 win over Hungary.

“I have a freer role now and I can take more risks,” said Leckie of his licence to pillage and plunder from wide right.

“We’re all about getting as far forward as we can when we win the the ball.

“It’s definitely a positive and against the Czechs it showed a lot on the counter attack when myself, Robbie (Kruse) and Andrew (Nabbout) looked very dangerous at times.

“We love to get forward quickly - and so far I’m really enjoying it back on the right wing.

“Things didn’t work out so well against Hungary and even though we didn’t have our best of games we were still disciplined and got the win.”

Fast becoming a Bundesliga veteran, Leckie, 27, won’t freeze against France and is feeling more excited than nervous at testing himself against their star-laden line-up.

“I’m fortunate enough to be going into my second World Cup which is a great experience and not something every player can do,” he added.

“Here in Russia we need to seize the moment to create good memories and what better way than against France.

“I’m happy with where I am at the moment and feeling really confident.

“We need to be disciplined in the first half hour against France and keep ourselves in the game.

“If we do that the opportunities will come and we have enough quality in the side to be dangerous going forward as well.”

While acknowledging France’s superior individual flair Leckie said team collective will be Australia’s strength.

“We need to go into the game being the better side. There’s no question that their individuals are better than us,” he said.

“They play all over the world and are another level than where we are.

“We need to come out there with the better mentality, team spirit and discipline.

“If we can make it difficult for them they might start getting frustrated and that could give us the opportunity.”

While he’s a certainly to start against Didier Deschamps’ men, the case is not so clear cut for long-standing skipper Mile Jedinak, proving how intense competition for places has become in Australia’s congested midfield.

Leckie insisted his influence is pervasive, whether he starts or comes off the bench, as he did in Budapest.

“Mile, for me, when he came on (at halftime for Massimo Luongo) changed the game a lot,” he added.

“We know the quality of each individual and even when Mile misses out the guy in front of him is also at a high level.

“It comes down to what the coach wants and what he believes is best for the team.

“Mile is an idol for us and we really look up to him.

“He brings a lot to the team but in saying that, even when he’s not on the pitch he does exactly the same thing.”

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Published 12 June 2018 at 6:57pm