Neill aiming to kick off new era in style

LUCAS Neill will captain the Socceroos for a record 61st time when they take on Costa Rica in Sydney tonight.

And he is determined to make the occasion a winning one, not for himself, but for new manager Ange Postecoglou, and for all of Australia.

Speaking to reporters yesterday after being told he would have the captain's armband for the match at Allianz Stadium, Neill gave a clear indication that appointing an Australian coach to replace a string of overseas managers - Dutch pair Guus Hiddinck and Pim Verbeek, followed by German Holger Osieck - would reignite national passion among the players and fans.

"As the manager (Postecoglou) said, this is not about any individual, it's not even about the team, it's about the country," Neill said.

"I'll be honoured to lead the team out, but we have to get Ange Postecoglou's era off in a positive way.

"Ange has definitely reminded us that there is a great sense of pride in the shirt we're wearing and that we're always on trial."

The new coach certainly left no doubt that not only was Neill's tenure as captain not guaranteed beyond tonight, but neither was anyone's position in the team.

"They are all one-offs - who is guaranteed about being around next time in any position?," Postecoglou said.

While the Socceroos qualified for a third successive World Cup in June, the team's poor record subsequent to that prompted Football Federation

Australia to dump Osieck.

In its last five games, the team has scored just five goals and condeded 19, starting with a 0-0 draw against Korea before losses to Japan (3-2), China (4-3), Brazil (6-0) and France (6-0).

Postecoglou has already stamped his mark on the squad by leaving out Luke Wilkshire, Brett Holman and Sasa Ognenovski for tonight's game.

The next obvious change should come with the game plan, clearly expected to be the fast, attacking style that has characterised teams he has coached, in contrast to the more conservative approach favoured by Osieck.

Costa Rica will certainly provide a stiff challenge, however.

It finished behind only the US in its World Cup group, and has a formidable record in its recent games having beaten Panama (2-0), the US (3-1) and Mexico (2-1), drawn with Jamaica (1-1) and lost to Honduras (1-0).


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