Verbeek defies critics


RUSTENBURG, June 19 – Australia coach Pim Verbeek on Friday hit back at his media critics and rubbished reports of bust-ups and divisions in the Socceroos' World Cup camp since a 4-0 defeat by Germany."I think the Australian media are fantastic," Verbeek said with heavy sarcasm on the eve of his side’s second match, against Ghana.

"I heard a lot of my players use the word rubbish and I fully agree with that word. But we live in a free world so you can write what you like

"I live in a professional world and I know what I am doing. So — especially if they are writing this kind of rubbish — I don’t care."

Verbeek said the negative reaction to Australia’s opening defeat had been overblown and underlined that Serbia’s 1-0 defeat of Germany on Friday had thrown the group wide open.

"The moment we lost against Germany, we knew what we had to," Verbeek said. "I did not change anything this week. We have worked very hard and the players have reacted very well.

"If we win against Ghana everyone in the group has three points and everything is open again. This is the way it works in international football."

Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill said the Germany defeat had been hard to take but said the recovery process had been kick-started by the players having a day off with their families.

"That allowed us to feel a little bit loved again," he said.

"Obviously the spirit takes a bit of a hit when you lose 4-0. But we have some strong characters in the dressing room. We have reacted in the right way and I’m sure we are going to take that on to the pitch against Ghana."

Verbeek acknowledged Tim Cahill, who is suspended following his red card against Germany, would be missed.

"The reality is that other players have got to pick it up and do what he does, which scoring goals. It would be nice to have him there but we cant change that. We have to do what we have to do — scoring goals, one more goal than the opponents."

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who will come up against Fulham team-mate John Pantsil on Saturday, said he had avoided reading the media reaction to the Germany defeat, and insisted the squad was "as together as ever."

"We were all bitterly disappointed and we all want the opportunity to put things right and really start our campaign off with the game tomorrow."

Verbeek would not be drawn on how he will reshape his side to cope with the absence of Cahill and injured midfield anchor Vince Grella, but a starting role for Harry Kewell seems likely.

"We all know Harry’s quality," the Dutch coach said. "We took a risk bringing him into the squad when he was not 100 percent. He has been training fully for a week but we thought it was better to keep him out for the Germany game.

"If I let him play it is that he is 100 percent ready and then he has to show he is ready for the team."