'Tactically we had no idea' - Socceroos recall France nightmare

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The last time the Socceroos faced France, the course of Australian football changed forever.

It was 2013, and national team coach Holger Osieck lined up marquee matches away to Brazil and France in the hope of testing his squad ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Qualification was already in the bag, and the German thought it was time to serve up a reality check to the Socceroos, hoping to steel them ahead of the tournament in Brazil.

The first match, a Neymar-inspired 6-0 defeat at the hands of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side in Brasilia, certainly provided a wake-up call.

A month later, the Socceroos re-assembled in Paris to take on Les Bleus.

World Cup winner Didier Deschamps, who remains coach today, had inherited a side that had failed at successive tournaments.

France finished rock-bottom of their UEFA Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup groups, before limping out at the Euros in 2012 only to be put out of their misery by eventual champions Spain.

But they were rebuilding under Deschamps, blooding young talent like 20-year-olds Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris - a trio that would all play against the Socceroos and form the backbone of the current side.

The result was another 6-0 defeat to Australia, a bloodbath that cost Osieck his job.

Just four Socceroos remain in the squad from that side; Mile Jedinak, Tim Cahill, Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie.

Leckie, playing just his third match for Australia, said it was a dark night for the side - during the worst period in the Socceroos' recent history.

"It was not a good time for the national team," Leckie said.

"There was already a lot of speculation and pressure on Holger at the time.

"Because of that reason we went into the game very worried, very vulnerable. Tactically we had no idea.

"It was a tough time. You could see there was absolutely no confidence in camp. They scored early and the floodgates opened ... it was definitely one to forget."

For Jackson Irvine, it was a harrowing introduction to the Socceroos.

Then based at Scottish powerhouse Celtic, Irvine had just led the Young Socceroos at the under-20 World Cup and had been rewarded by the senior side.

"It was my first ever Socceroos call-up," Irvine said.

"I was warming up on the side when we were 6-0 down and I thought 'phwoar this would really be a game to make your debut in'.

"It certainly wasn't nice to get the nod, get called up, and then the manager gets sacked."

Irvine was left on the sidelines, debuting under interim boss Aurelio Vidmar four days later as the Socceroos rebounded with a 3-0 defeat of Canada in London.

While the France result was emphatic, Kruse remembers the match's key moment being a dodgy penalty awarded against David Carney in the opening minutes.

"If you're starting like that against a big team then you're on the back foot," Kruse said, shaking his head in embarrassment at the memory.

"They're a world class team .. 6-0 and a smashing."

Australia has also enjoyed finer moments against the French.

In 2001, Frank Farina's Socceroos defeated France - then World Cup holders - at the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Clayton Zane scored the only goal of the game after Josip Skoko's free kick caused mayhem in the box.

The Socceroos also drew 1-1 with France at the MCG later that year.

In front of a crowd of 53,173, Craig Moore put Australia ahead before David Trezeguet equalised after the break.

Recalling the 6-0 defeat at Parc des Princes, Kruse said the circumstances were "completely different", with morale restored and a gameplay instituted by new coach Bert van Marwijk.

Leckie agreed.

"A lot's changed since then. A lot of players have changed. There was a cycle, young players have come in and I guess the style of play has changed a lot as well," Leckie said.

Irvine said the mood shift inside the Australian dressing room had changed remarkably since his first experience five years ago.

"It's incredibly exciting. It's the perfect game to go out and show what we can do against one of the favourites, one of the very best," he said.

"They're young. Dynamic. Exciting. Got players in the best leagues in the world.

"That's what it's all about and that's why you want to be in it."

Source: AAP

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