How important is the experience you gained four years ago going into South Africa?
It is going to be vital. You can't win games on just experience, but considering the tough opposition we have that experience is going to be needed. We are going to have to be well organised tactically and we are going to need the right physical conditioning. With the experience we have of playing together too, it will give us the best possible chance to get the results at the finals.

Has your stint in the English Premier League better prepared you than Serie A?
Unfortunately I haven't played enough games in the Premier League for one reason or another. I've had a few niggling injuries which have hung around and stopped me from playing regular football. I wouldn't say the Premier League has enabled me to prepare better than Italy, because I was playing every week in Italy. I got to the last World Cup after having a good season, with plenty of game time. So that lack of game time for these finals is probably a small negative, but the positive is that as I haven't played as many games I should have that freshness and energy which is needed to play in a World Cup.

With that in mind, how do you rate your match fitness going into these finals?
Without playing a lot of games it [my match fitness] is not going to be at its maximum. With the preparation and friendly games with the Socceroos, I'm looking at it like I've had a mini pre-season with a couple of friendly games before the start of a new season. I've done everything to ensure my training and recovery is right to give me every chance of being in the best condition when the first game kicks off.

Tell us about your role in this Socceroos team. Unsung hero?
Oh no, I don't think I'm an unsung hero. Each position has its purpose and a lot depends on the footballer and how he carries on his life off the football pitch. Some people are a little bit more attractive to the media than others but I wouldn't say I'm an unsung hero. There are different personalities and different characters, some enjoy it [the attention] more than others.

We couldn't have got three more physical sides in our group. You must be chomping at the bit to get stuck into some good midfield battles now?
I'm not sure [if that physical style] suits anyone, but being in the World Cup means taking on the best opposition in the world and there is no World Cup without tough opposition. We have a tough group, but there is no easy group. We have to rise to the challenge, a big challenge at that, and the results will tell us where we're at.

World Cup's have been notorious for diving and play-acting? It must be frustrating to have opponents like that. How do you keep your head in that situation?
We try to talk to the referee, but we are in the ref's hands, there is not much we can do about it. I would be lying if I said that I didn't use that [those tactics] to my advantage. It is part of football, you have to accept the good and the bad decisions hoping the referee gets more right than he gets wrong.

Are you going to have to hold back because the referees are going to be clamping down on tough tacklers and rough play?
Not really, I just play my game and try to be as fair as possible. You use every trick in the book to help your team to get that final result. I wouldn't want Australia to win the fair play award and be knocked out of the World Cup.

What is the one thing Australia needs to do to get out of the group?
We need to have our best players firing on all cylinders. If we have our full team with everyone fit and healthy, then we're in with a very good chance. We simply have to be at our best when those first games start.

Can you name the last time Germany didn't make the quarters of the World Cup?

1938. Scared?
Names and records only count for so much. In that 90 minutes - if we are at our best - we'll give the Germans a good run for their money.

Surely the Ghana and Serbia games are more important than Germany anyway?
No, every game is worth three points and that's the way we have to look at each game. An attacking and positive approach will ensure we reap the rewards.

How do you feel about the order of the games, with Germany first, then Ghana and Serbia?
Traditionally the bigger nations start slower at the World Cup as it is a longer journey for them, so they view the tournament as a marathon not a sprint. So playing a big nation like Germany first is probably a slight advantage. However Germany would have done their homework on Australia, so they will be alert and ready. It will be a tough game for them too though.

How much will luck play a part in our World Cup progression?
Luck plays a part in every game, for every team and nation, so we'll all be hoping the luck bounces our way.

This article appeared in the July issue of FourFourTwo magazine. To buy back copies of this issue call 03-8317-8121 with a credit card to hand.