For all the VAR vitriol and cries of injustice from inside and outside the camp after the 2-1 loss to France, Australia are empty handed going into Thursday night's (AEST) second Group C game against Denmark in Samara, and must take something from that match to have any hope of reaching the last 16 in Russia.
“The good thing for is it that we’ve got a lot more to give and will shock a few more people going forward,” said defender Mark Milligan, whose defensive partnership with Trent Sainsbury largely nullified the effect of prized attackers Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann during Australia’s luckless loss to Les Bleus.
“It’s been a while since a loss hurt so much. We sat in the changing room for a good half hour and it’s tough to take.
“One of our strengths is when we get on the ball and maybe against France we weren’t as crisp as we normally are in that aspect.
“Against Denmark we’ll show the same resolve defensively but I think you’ll see a bit more aggression with the ball.
“It was really disappointing not to take anything (from France) but we have six points to play for and with the heart this team has, and the tactical awareness Bert (van Marwijk) has instilled into us, I think we’re a big chance (of reaching the knockout stage).”
Teammate Aziz Behich, who made the last contact as Paul Pogba’s lofted toe-poke crashed off the underside of the bar for Les Bleus’ winning goal, also believes a statement has been made, and Australia are far from done yet.
“There are mixed emotions,” Behich said.
“We played well and deserved more than what we got.
“We didn’t care who was in front of us and I am proud of this team and proud to be part of this group.
“We have two more games and I’m sure we’re going to improve even more.
“We’ve been working hard for the past month trying to implement a system and the football we showed against France was really high level.
“We put them under pressure for most of the game and I think we will be shocking a few more people at this tournament.”
Behich said that while Australia might in some people’s eyes always be underdogs, the collective belief in the system put in place by the wily van Marwijk should not be under-estimated.
“Maybe we are always going to be the underdogs but we believe in what we’re doing and the people behind us, and hopefully everybody sticks with us,” he said.
“We’ll be doing everything we can to make sure this journey continues.”
Winger Mathew Leckie agreed that the dream is still alive, though the pressure is building for Australia to score from open play in a World Cup match.
The last time that happened was Tim Cahill’s winner against Syria some eight months ago.
“People probably didn’t expect us to make the game as tight as it was,” he said.
“They probably thought France would dominate and beat us by a few goals.
“Potentially we’ve made a statement to everyone watching but we are here to get results and we missed out.
“We have to continue playing this way ... play our game and not change too much.
“France are the best team in the group. If we reproduce our performance against them, and maybe have a bit more luck, then we’re a good chance of getting out of the group.”