Australia shrug off scrappy NZ showing

JOHANNESBURG - Australia have put an average performance against New Zealand behind them and should show a big improvement in the World Cup warm-up against Denmark next week, team captain Lucas Neill said on Thursday.

The Socceroos were the first team to arrive in South Africa for the June 11-July 11 showpiece tournament and hope the early start to training at high altitude in Johannesburg will give them a step up on group stage rivals Germany, Ghana and Serbia.

"Between the New Zealand game and our next game we will have got a lot of rust out. A lot of players will have had a good couple of weeks training under their belt," Neill told reporters after the team's first training session.

"We will get a lot more passing going, a lot more flowing and a lot more consistency in our possession, and we want to create a lot more chances."

Australia, ranked 20th by FIFA, scraped a scrappy 2-1 win against the 78-ranked All Whites on Monday thanks to a late winner by Brett Holman, a performance that was slammed by coach Pim Verbeek.

Neill said tough training ahead of the friendly may have contributed to the team's sluggish performance.

"But also we were not quite sharp enough or fit enough but that was a result of probably training really hard," he said.

"As we keep going, two training sessions a day and get used to the altitude, I'm sure you are going to see a lot more attractive football team on the field."

Good preparation and fitness could make the difference in leading the team through a tough group.

"I think we are going to have to try take any advantage we can in this competition and if that means doing better in adapting to altitude or being a fitter team than the next, then that might be the difference in the games."

Australia, in their third World Cup, have based themselves at high altitude in Johannesburg and will face Denmark in a friendly on June 1 and then the United States in another warm-up on June 5.

Their first World Cup game is against Germany on June 13 in coastal city Durban before they move to Rustenburg -- at 1,300 metres above sea level - to play Ghana. The final Group D match is against Serbia.

Australian midfield playmaker Mark Bresciano said the goal was to repeat the team's success of the 2006 tournament in Germany, when they made it to the last 16.

"Our main objective now is just to just climb past the group stages. We know it's going to be very difficult, strong teams to play against but that is our goal, just to repeat our success of what we did in Germany."

The 30-year-old said he was now clear of the back injury that had kept him out of Italy's Serie A Palermo side since February.

"I feel good, it's been maybe our two or three weeks that I have been in full training, so I don't feel any problems and hopefully it continues like this."

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