Kazan: They might be nearly 14,000 kilometres away but the Socceroos have been made to feel at home at their training base in Kazan.
Tailored sleeping arrangements and a reminder of their loved ones have provided the personal touch for Bert van Marwijks squad ahead of their formidable World Cup opener against star-studded Group C favourites France.
Players were surprised by the national team staff gesture when they found photos of their nearest and dearest by their beds when they arrived at the Korston Complex in Kazan, where theyll spend most of their time in Russia.
Socceroos staff had asked players families to supply three photos each for the homely touch, a small part of the bid to give them every mental edge.
Were pretty lucky were so well looked after so we dont have to bring too much with us, midfielder Jackson Irvine said. Theres been some really nice touches involved in the complex, all the players have photos of families near their beds to remind [us] of what [were] playing for. Little things like that can be a nice touch and, as I said, it makes you feel more homely and gives you a little bit more motivation as well.
It didnt end there. Players were also provided with mattresses to their liking. Each player was asked to select the firmness of their bedding for the training camp to assist in their sleep and recovery, which Irvine says could be a small detail that would provide them with a significant difference.
Sleep is important. Not personalised mattresses or anything but you get the preference of hard mattresses or soft mattresses, its as simple as that so any little edge that you can get is going to help the players to obviously get the best preparation they can, he said.
While theyve been provided with every comfort away from the training pitch, the atmosphere during sessions has been distinctly tense and competitive. At the end of their session on Tuesday, the players went through a penalty shoot out which showed coach Bert van Marwijks mantra to win at every opportunity had sunk in.
Drills during during training have been competitive wherever possible, with teams divided by age to provide players with a sense of pride they dont want to surrender.
Were naturally extremely competitive even at training and thats a good quality to have and it leads to some fire in the belly, even at training," Irvine said. "Its great to see, were all capable of having those little arguments within the squad and then we push it aside when were off the pitch.
Already, thats transpired into performances and Australias ability to come back from conceding a late own goal against Hungary to fighting back to find a winner. Irvine says it will be one of their best weapons against France.
Weve seen that over the last few games as well particularly the Hungary game where maybe the football wasnt the highest quality, that winning mentality shone through at the end, he said.
When you lose a late goal you bounce back to try and grab a late winner it does show a winning mentality and that there is something at training with our young v old games and it does get quite competitive but maybe its that competitive edge that can make the difference at this level.
Dominic Bossi is a football reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
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