Alex Wilkinson

Alex Wilkinson Photo: Getty Images

Alex Wilkinson says Australia won’t be afraid to get physical with Chile's brilliant attackers in Friday's World Cup opener but is confident they can keep the aggression in check.

Among their many talents, Chile boast two of the most exciting forwards in world football, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, with Eduardo Vargas also posing a major threat. While the temptation may be to robustly challenge La Roja when the two sides square off in Cuiaba, Wilkinson says coach Ange Postecoglou will demand a balance between style and strength.

"I think the Australian mentality is that we're a physical nation and we like getting stuck in but that's not to say that’s all we’re going to do," he said. "Ange's philosophy is that while they're expecting us to be physical, and we will be physical, we also want to show them that we can play football as well. We want to be attacking and keep the ball as much as we can. That might be something they’re not expecting."

As one of the two central defenders set to start against Chile, marking the likes of Sanchez and Vidal is a task Wilkinson is relishing.

"It's exciting. It's going to be a definite challenge but it's one that we're definitely up for because you go to the World Cup to play against the best," he said. "Those two guys are up there with the two best players in the world. In saying that, there were some great players in the Croatian team [on Friday] night as well.

"No matter what team you play at a World Cup, there’s going to be fantastic players involved. It's up to us to rise to the challenge and put our best foot forward."

Crucial to stopping Chile’s attack – not to mention the subsequent threats of The Netherlands and Spain – will be Wilkinson’s defensive partnership with Matthew Spiranovic, who starred in the 1-0 defeat to Croatia.

"That was our first 90 minutes together, so there's going to be a few times where we're not quite sure what the other is doing but that will come and we'll get better and better," Wilkinson said. "But Spira is a great player, he's strong in the air, he's great when the ball is on the deck and I though he was very good considering he hadn't played a game in a few weeks, so that's good for him to get 90 minutes."

Having started the past two matches for the Socceroos, Wilkinson is clearly in the box seat to keep his position in the side, even if he'd rather not try and second-guess what Postecoglou has in mind.

"I don’t know what he’s thinking, to be honest. There's four centre-backs here and I've been lucky enough to play the last two games, which has been great," Wilkinson said. "Obviously the aim is to be there in the starting XI against Chile on Friday. Hopefully I've done enough but there's still six or seven days of training to go and the other two centre-backs, Bailey [Wright] and Ryan [McGowan] will be pushing hard as well."

Wilkinson said he rated the performance against the Balkan nation in Salvador as a pass mark despite the end result.

"I was relatively happy. It was a bit disappointing to concede a goal but I thought defensively we weren’t too bad," he said. "As a unit, we kept it pretty compact and limited them to a few chances, which was good. It was a step forward from the South Africa game."

Although Postecoglou was frustrated by the lack of adventure shown by the team in their final friendly hit-out, Wilkinson believes players will respond by pushing forward with intent in the matches that really matter.

"We probably needed to be a bit better going forward and that definitely comes with playing games," he said. "From being together, as we saw in the past few games, we've definitely improved. It was a case of the last pass or the second last pass was letting us down a bit. That will definitely come."

Wilkinson was particularly pleased to see Mark Bresciano come on as a substitute, giving the side a focal point in midfield despite his lack of match fitness.

"It was great to see 'Bresh' come on and get about 30 minutes and he definitely made a difference when he came on," he said. "He gets into those little pockets and creates space for himself so well, which is great going forward for the boys who know when he gets the ball, they can turn and make runs.

"We've got the week to work on the attacking side of things. If we can be solid defensively, and improve a bit on our attack, I think we’ll be all right."