Today Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak told us to "...wait and see...". Wait and see. It's both the message and the problem for this Socceroos' World Cup campaign.
It carries an unspoken burden of anticipation and expectation, the hint of something special brewing - yet without making any firm promises. It requires a leap of faith to believe, but with more than a suggestion that your trust will be rewarded.
It's what a parent tells a child before Christmas... usually about the present the child will actually receive. We want to believe - but what will we receive on Saturday morning against Chile?
Just a few days out from their opening clash, the Socceroos are in fine fettle. The fitness and conditioning work has been timed to perfection. None of them has ever looked fitter, even the eternally slim Tim Cahill.
There's not an ounce of fat left on any of them, their muscles clearly defined even through their training gear. They are quite literally in the best possible shape for the World Cup.
(Bresciano says he's fully recovered from his injury scare but it's possible to detect a hint of suspicion about that from within the FFA camp...although they seem prepared to trust his judgement on his own health.)
Now it's time to hone the skills. Officially, it's being called tapering, but it's moving away from aerobic work to instead refine their touch, especially in front of goal - and that's showing worrying signs of being a little rusty.
Following on from last week's Croatia game, today even Cahill was struggling to find the target with literally an open goal in front of him. His frustration at times was explosive. Others also often seemed out of tune, although Adam Taggart appeared to blast home more than he butchered.
Tommy Oar too was occasionally missing his mojo on those keynote crosses into box. (You've not lived until you've heard the squeaky clean pocket dynamo unleash the C-bomb in training - only to politely apologise straight after...)
But for all that, there is no lack of confidence within the camp. Oar assured FourFourTwo there was not even a hint of nerves as the opening clash draws close.
Should there be? Expectations are low outside the heavily secured training compound - which bears more than passing resemblance to a location in a videogame like Counter Strike or Call of Duty, especially when firecrackers go off nearby and drown out conversation like they did this lunchtime. But what should expectations be within the camp?
Should they dare to dream? Or base their game and mindset on the realities of the titanic opposition ahead of them?
They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. Think big and they risk overconfidence and a rude awakening. Temper their dreams and they may stay on the back foot until they get pushed over.
Jedi admitted they have only focused on the Chile game so far in terms of tactics. Their entire gameplan up to now is being constructed solely around defusing and defeating the exciting South Americans.
Then and only then will they look at their alternatives to tackle the Netherlands and Spain. It's essentially an all or nothing strategy. Teams that lose their first game historically have a Sugarloaf Mountain to climb in terms of then qualifying from the group stage.
And yet they still must walk a tightrope. Raise expectations too high and if, in the worst case scenario, the wheels come off, someone somewhere will want heads to roll, jeopardising Ange's good and brave work and the tough decisions he's made as an investment for the future.
Talk the games down though and the Roos themselves will risk believing the defeatist hype, fast-tracking them into an embarrassing defeat.
The message is itself a World Cup challenge, one that Ange and his squad (and the FFA) need to define and temper appropriately, both internally and externally.
Have they succeeded in that? We'll have to wait and see. I can't wait.1 comment