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Australian coach Guus Hiddink says the Socceroos will aim for a spot behind Brazil.

Guus Hiddink says the Socceroos will aim for a spot behind Brazil. (AFP)

Socceroos face major challenge: Hiddink

Australian coach Guus Hiddink admitted his side had been a handed a tough first-round draw at the 2006 World Cup finals after being paired with holders and five-time champions Brazil in Group F.

A world television audience of more than 300 million held its breath as the World Cup draw took place in the German town of Leipzig this morning.

Japan and Croatia were the other two teams drawn in Australia's group, but Dutchman Hiddink acknowledged the focus was on Brazil.

"Perhaps Japan and Croatia have other ideas but realistically we are looking for the spot behind Brazil," Hiddink said.

"They are the favourites and the toughest draw we could have had."

Australia, who are making only their second appearance on the World Cup stage following the 1974 finals in West Germany, face Japan in Kaiserslautern on June 12 in their opening match, and then the big one against Brazil five days later in Munich.

"You can have a strategy against Brazil but they have the quality to open you up at any moment," Hiddink said.

"I think it will go down to the final game against Croatia which should be interesting as some of our players have Croatian heritage."

Japan reached the last 16 at the 2002 World Cup, but Hiddink believes the Asian giants are more of an unknown quantity this time around.

"Japan have changed a lot since 2002 and like us they will want to pull something out of the hat," Hiddink said.

"We are happy to have qualified but we are not here to make up the numbers and want to spring a surprise."

Hiddink is no stranger to surprises having guided co-hosts South Korea to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup.

"If we can go that far with Australia it would be something," Hiddink said.

Physical battle

Meanwhile, Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said his team was ready for a physical battle against Australia.

"In technical terms, it's (the group) not so strong but it's a group in which there's going to be a lot of physical strength," he told Brazilian television.

"They're all teams who run a lot and are tactically disciplined.

"Australia caused a lot of problems in Germany (at the Confederations Cup), they're not afraid of their opponents and their players all play in Europe."

Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjcar said he was satisfied with the draw, and was confident his side had the goods over Australia and Japan.

"I think we ended up in a rather satisfying group. Of course, Brazil are favourites but we managed to draw with them in a friendly this year and that shows we are not without chances against them," he said.

"I believe we're better than Australia and Japan are also beatable. Altogether, I can say our performance in qualifying gives us the right to be optimistic before the World Cup."

Meanwhile Japanese coach Zico described Australia as a "highly motivated team" under Hiddink.

"They are well guided. It will be very important for us to win the first match and boost the morale of my players," Zico said.

Zico said he had few worries about Croatia, who beat Japan 1-0 in their winless World Cup finals debut at France 1998. Croatia finished third in that tournament.

"We have fought Serbia-Montenegro and Slovakia and we are used to such a European team," Zico said.

Zico added his side was prepared to face his home country and tournament favourites Brazil.

"A team that has qualified for the World Cup finals must be prepared for any situation whatsoever," he said.

"I thought about the possibility of fighting Brazil."

-AFP

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