But Graham Arnold’s men have fought back superbly, banking back-to-back wins over Tunisia and Denmark – and two consecutive clean sheets – to reach the knockout phase for the second time in the nation’s history.
“We’ve learned a lot from the France game. I think we showed them a bit [too much] respect in that first game,” said Degenek, who played the final few minutes off the bench in that clash but started at right-back against the Danes.
“This game in two days’ time will be a completely different game. We’ve obviously got time to prepare, which we will. But again, it’s two completely different styles of football.
“France play one way, Argentina will play a different way. You can’t really just take all that from one game and move into another game, but you can take some positives out of that and move into this game against Argentina.
“We know this squad is full of stars – even [Paulo] Dybala’s on the bench and [Lautaro] Martinez comes off the bench. It’s a squad that’s immaculate. France [are] probably the favourites at the World Cup at the moment with the players they have. But France don’t have that one guy that we all know who Argentina have. So he’s capable of everything.”
Australia will face Argentina at Doha’s Ahmed bin Ali Stadium – the venue where Andrew Redmayne’s penalty shootout heroics got them past another CONMEBOL team, Peru, in June’s do-or-die play-off.
La Albiceleste had a disastrous start to the World Cup, losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening match, but have since beaten Mexico and Poland by 2-0 scorelines, and Messi told reporters after booking their spot in the round of 16 that they were preparing for a “very difficult” meeting with Australia.
“Anyone can beat anyone, everything is very even. We have to prepare the game in the best way as we always do,” Messi said. “We must be calm and go game by game. Now another World Cup begins and hopefully we can continue to maintain what we did today.”
The challenge for the Socceroos will be backing up physically from another gruelling battle, but at least they have a four-hour head-start against Argentina, who played in the later match on Wednesday night (local time) – although Degenek took the opportunity to fire a broadside at FIFA for the condensed scheduling of this World Cup.
“We have to believe in ourselves. We have to be confident in our abilities to stop every attack. Whether that’s going to be possible or not, I’m not sure, but I know that we’re going to give 110 per cent to stop everything that goes towards Maty’s goal,” he said.
“And believe me, there’s going to be a lot of preparations today and tomorrow before that game, which again is a very short turnaround … it’s something that FIFA needs to consider, that we’re not robots. We are humans and that we do need to recover and can’t just play day after day, we need a break as well.”
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