France’s World Cup squad – the 23 names Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Alphonse Areola.
Defenders: Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Pavard, Adil Rami, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, Lucas Hernandez.
Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Corentin Tolisso, N’Golo Kante, Steven Nzonzi.
Forwards: Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Florian Thauvin, Thomas Lemar, Nabil Fekir.
In the battle for any tiny advantage at the World Cup, the Socceroos are hoping a multi-million dollar investment in elite performance will yield dividends.
At all stages of their journey to Russia, Football Federation Australia has spent up big on support for players.
That began with their first qualifier in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, exactly three years to the day when the Socceroos face France in their tournament opener.
The high-water mark came with the Qantas charter flight back from Honduras in between the away and home legs of their inter-continental playoff, complete with space-age ‘Re-Timer’ glasses that gave Australia an edge over the Central American minnows.
During the qualifying phase, the mighty spend was an investment in reaching Russia – a bet banking on the rich rewards of the US$8 million minimum participation payment.
Now, it’s about maximising the team’s results.
The investment has continued through to the final month, where Dr Craig Duncan is overseeing an unparalleled high performance atmosphere.
“Performance is about maximising your ability to perform well. This gives us that opportunity,” he said.
The Gloria Sports complex in Antalya, Turkey, is hosting the Socceroos before their shift north, by which time most players will have experienced hot-weather training for three weeks.
Gloria managers are most proud of hosting the Turkish national team in the lead-up to the 2002 World Cup, when they finished third in Japan and Korea.
A recent $100 million renovation makes the facility suitable to host elite athletes of over 50 sports, including regular international soccer matches.At their training grounds, the Socceroos are filming their own training sessions from multiple angles – including a drone perched high in the sky – for video analysis.But Duncan seems most pleased with the recovery facilities across the complex.
After presenting with a knee issue, Tomi Juric was nursed back to health with the use of a high-tech underwater treadmill, equipped with cameras that allowed head physio Les Gelis to monitor the striker’s running motion below the water.
Without the tool, a hurt player might be forced onto the exercise bike.”But it’s a completely different motion, cycling to running. So this conditions the athlete in the way they need,” Duncan explains.
The Socceroos are also making use of cryotherapy, with short-term recovery chambers set to 101 degrees below zero.Outside of the icy cold rooms, the temperature is hot. Just how Duncan wanted it.
The FFA high-performance guru took the proposal for a hot-weather camp to coach Bert van Marwijk on the Dutchman’s appointment and quickly got his support.
“I believe in heat as a good enhancer of physiological conditioning. I identified the climate we required, did a presentation to Bert and he agreed,” he said.”It came down to Sevilla and here. Some of Bert’s staff had experience with Antalya and that’s how we got here.”The live-in training approach will continue in the Socceroos’ World Cup base of Kazan, where they will stay on site at the base of ice hockey team Ak Bars.
Other teams will commute to and from their hotel.Australia needed special permission from FIFA to select a facility off the nominated hotel list, seeking to minimise travel during an already draining campaign.
On top of the performance spend, FFA is also emptying the wallet on its players.
Player payments will reach an all-time high after a PFA-brokered deal, with each of Australia’s 23-man squad to earn over $100,000 when daily allowances, match payments and their share of prize money and commercial agreements are factored in.That pay packet will jump further should Australia make it out of their group.While Australia might not have the elite playmaker of Denmark’s Christian Eriksen, the all-around class of France, or the fervent passion of Peru, they’re determined not to lose the off-field battle.