Ahead of the Socceroos opening World Cup clash with Chile former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski shares with the PFA his experiences of Germany 2006, what it takes to compete with the best in the world and much more.

Q: The Socceroos have just undergone a grueling training camp in Brazil what are your recollections of the training camp ahead of the 2006 World Cup?

MS: The training camp we had in 06 was very intense. I remember returning from every training session exhausted. But it was very necessary so we could be ready to compete with the best teams in the world.

Q: How vital is that period in preparing for the opening match?

MS: Fitness is so important as it increases confidence, and confidence is vital in a World Cup campaign. The way you approach the opening game, and the way you play in the opening game sets the tone for the rest of the games.

Q: I’m sure there was huge amount of anticipation ahead of the first game against Brazil, what was the feeling like when Japan took the lead?

MS: When Japan took the lead it was a definitely a blow but I always felt like we could come back into the game. We had a great squad and players that were able to turn it on when we needed them to.

Q: Tim Cahill came on and changed the game and sparked a comeback, did you think that was possibility as he was about to come on?

MS: It was definitely a possibility. I know many people didn’t give us a chance and thought we were there to make up the numbers but we had belief in the team that we could perform well and also earn the respect of the footballing world.  After Tim equalised we had a feeling like we could go on and win this game and we did just that with Tim adding another and John Aloisi getting the third. It was a great way to start the tournament.

Q: You then faced Brazil, what was it like standing alongside the then World Champions as you were about to come out of the tunnel?

MS: Standing in the tunnel and lining up alongside the star studded Brazil team was surreal. It was something that I dreamed about as a kid and I could not believe that it actually came true. But after the referee blew the whistle to start the game you forget about who you are playing against and just focused on the job you have to do and try to do it to the best of your ability.

Q: You and your teammates very much took the game to Brazil, were you at all surprised about how much pressure you were able to put them under?

MS: I wasn’t surprised about how we performed against Brazil. I knew we were capable of performing like that. The preparation we did for the World Cup plus the great result against Japan gave us a confidence boost to be able to play without fear and earn respect from Brazil and the rest of the world.

Q: Then came the crunch match versus Croatia. It was extremely tense for those just watching, what was it like to be out on the pitch in such an atmosphere with so much on the line?

MS: The match against Croatia was very special as we had several players with Croatian heritage, which added extra significance to the game. We went into the match needing a result to qualify for the next round so the atmosphere was incredible and I think the game was a great spectacle. I feel very proud to be part of that game and to have made it into the next round. I remember doing the lap of honour with the team after the match and getting a standing ovation not only from the Aussie supporters but also from the Croatian fans. A night I’ll never forget.

Q: The 2006 World Cup was very much characterized by the Socceroos taking their game to another level and out performing nations who on paper seemed favorites, what do you put that down to?

MS: I put it down to a few things. The preparation was vital, we went into the World Cup physically ready. It was probably the fittest I have ever been and like I said before being fit gives you confidence. I think being underdogs also helped. The pressure was off because people didn’t have expectations. Also having a coach like GuusHiddink gave us confidence too. Other teams gave us respect because we were coached by him. He helped us reach another level and kick started the football boom in Australia

Q: Do you think that no fear and adventurous approach is one the current Socceroos should undertake as they too will take on some of the world’s best Nations?

MS: The current Socceroo squad should definitely take the no fear approach. They are in a similar situation as we were back in 06 where people didn’t have high expectations. They have done the hard work and preparation and should just focus on their own performance, the rest is out of their control. I’m looking forward to the World Cup starting and I am optimistic that the team will perform well and prove many people wrong.