Football: Venables' first test

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The Independent Online
When Terry Venables took over as the coach of Australia's Socceroos his brief was to get the team through to next year's World Cup finals in France, and the first obstacle for his side is the Optus World Soccer Series, a four-team tournament also involving New Zealand, South Korea and Norway.

It is all a far cry from last June's Euro 96 semi-final against Germany, but it will give the former England coach his first real chance to assess the size of his task. Despite his team being given a Fifa ranking of 48th, Venables is not perturbed: "I've always criticised the ratings because they are not on the basis that should be used, but instead on somebody's opinion.

"If you ask me how Australia compared with Brazil I would say Brazil are better, but if you look at Europe you could equate the Australian standard with Hungary or Austria."

"I do really feel encouraged since I've been here," he said. "I've seen some good performances in games and in training. I can see these guys can play.

"They're very fit boys and they've some good skills. All I'm saying is this gives them a good chance. These three games will help me to assess it even more."