SYDNEY: New Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk said Thursday he has set his sights on taking Australia beyond the group stages of the World Cup, but warned it "will not be easy".
The Dutchman was appointed last week after the sudden departure of Ange Postecoglou in November, with Football Federation Australia (FFA) citing his prior experience, including taking the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final, as a key deciding factor.
"I go to the World Cup with only one thing that counts, which is to survive the first round and nobody has to tell me that's difficult because our opponents are good countries," van Marwijk said at his first press conference in Sydney.
The 65-year-old, who is familiar with the Socceroos having studied them as coach of Saudi Arabia in the same World Cup qualifying group, said his goal was to maximise the abilities of the "physically strong" players to win games.
Australia is drawn in Group C with France, Denmark and Peru. Their first game is against Les Bleus on June 16.
"It will not be easy. But I already said with Holland as well, we maybe don't have the best players but we can be the best team," he said.
Early criticism of van Marwijk has included his coaching style, which is viewed as pragmatic with a focus on results rather than attractive play.
Postecoglou, who pushed the Socceroos to play attacking football, said this week it was "pretty clear" van Marwijk had a different philosophy.
But FFA chief executive David Gallop defended hiring the Dutchman, who said he would only coach the Socceroos through Russia 2018 and not seek a longer-term appointment.
"Let's take comfort that we're in very capable hands and that Bert will play the style that he thinks will get us success. That's the start and finish of it," Gallop told the same press conference.
Van Marwijk said that while he respected Postecoglou, he would manage the team "my way".
"I'm a realistic coach and I like creative football. I like to have the ball. But I also like to win. And that's the most important thing," he said.
"And I think it's important that we play in a way that fits the players and also the coach. You cannot play in a way that the players cannot do and when they don't like to play a way you want to play, then you make a mistake."
Van Marwijk is set to watch several A-League games this weekend to familiarise himself with the wider group of players. His first matches as Socceroos coach will be friendlies against Norway and Colombia in Europe in March.