Jedinak given a breather as Australia step up training

Reuters| Updated: Jan 03, 2015, 12:22 PM IST
Jedinak given a breather as Australia step up training

Australia captain Mile Jedinak was given a deserved day off as the remainder of a happy and fully fit Socceroos squad ramped up the intensity on Saturday ahead of their Asian Cup opener against Kuwait.

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was keen not to overload his influential skipper, who was named Australian footballer of the year on Friday, after a demanding period with English Premier League side Crystal Palace.

"He had two games in 48 hours and has come off a long flight, it was always the plan to ease him back into it but he`ll train tomorrow," the coach told reporters. "He`s very, very fit."

With the temperatures rising to 40 degrees in Melbourne on Saturday, Postecoglou brought forward training for the other 22 players to avoid the searing heat.

Concerns over defender Trent Sainsbury`s troublesome hamstring problem had subsided, the coach said, with the rest of the group ready for Friday`s opener against Kuwait.

"The mood of the group was good and the work-rate was good," Postecoglou said. "Most importantly they`re all progressing well to make sure we`ve got a full list for next Friday."

The pressure is on the home side to deliver when they take on former winners Kuwait in their Group A opener at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium with clashes against Oman and South Korea to follow.

While Postecoglou, who took over from Holger Osieck at the tail end of 2013, has revamped a sluggish, ageing side with a youthful, pressing outfit the results are yet to come. 

The Socceroos won only once last year but the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory boss said the results and the expectations to deliver a first Asian Cup title were not hindering his squad. 

"I don`t know if I`ve noticed pressure, I have noticed that the players feel very, very comfortable," he said.

"Maybe as we get closer to the tournament and the hype picks up there might be a little bit of pressure and some nerves there.

"At the moment they`re just enjoying being in Australia."

Utility defender Chris Herd reiterated the stance.

"Everyone helps each other and it`s a great environment to be in," the Aston Villa back said.