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Socceroos should aim to be the Leicester of world soccer, says Jedinak

Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak felt the full force of the Leicester City whirlwind on Saturday when his Crystal Palace side went down 1-0 at home to this season's Premier League shocktroopers.

Up against the best: Mile Jedinak in action for Crystal Palace against the table-topping Foxes.
Up against the best: Mile Jedinak in action for Crystal Palace against the table-topping Foxes. Photo: Getty Images

But he believes that England's surprise packages can provide Australia with a template for how to stun the world on the global stage.

Claudio Ranieri's side have shocked opponents all season long with their hard running, tough tackling and chasing and willingness to take their chances and then defend any lead they get. With seven games remaining they stand five points clear of nearest challengers Tottenham at the top of the table and are poised for one of the biggest upsets the English game has ever seen.

Ange Postecoglou's game plan for the Socceroos is not dissimilar, based on a high tempo pressing game that looks to shut down opponents' space and time on the ball and break quickly with pace and precision.

It paid off perfectly in the Asian Cup when the Jedinak-led Socceroos won the continental title.

And now the Australian skipper believes it can be refined and taken to another level, using Leicester's model as the perfect example.

"If we think that way, if we can make a few surprises, and people don't expect it, that would be awesome," said Jedinak as he faced the press on Tuesday as Australia prepares for its World Cup qualifier against Tajikistan on Thursday night.

"Can we do it? I think we can. Where does it get us? That's the question; that would be the question going through...but it's definitely something that we need to strive for."

Jedinak, like everyone else, not just in the English game but the entire football world, is scratching his head to understand how Claudio Ranieri's team has come from nowhere to the top in this campaign.

The Foxes have never won an English title, and last season, their first back in the top flight, they spent most of the campaign battling against relegation under then coach Nigel Pearson, who left the club just before this year kicked off. Ranieri arrived in July, not long before the season started, and with little preparation time put his faith in his players to do a job.

"It's pretty hard to explain," says Jedinak of Leicester's achievement. "I think it's just a group of players who are high on confidence, no doubt about that, who have a strong belief in what they are doing. They have a great understanding of individual roles and what they have to do as a collective, and just being able to do it week in and week out.

"They have a manager who has full belief in what they are doing, who is keeping a lot of things under wraps. He has managed that whole situation about challenging for the title really well. That's how it looks from afar.

"I just think they are on a roll and they will take some stopping. There is no secret about how they have done it.

"Their style of play has been the same since the start of last season as well but they have just hit a vein of form and have this tremendous belief, as you do when you go on those sort of runs, that everything is possible, and it's great to see.

"Speaking to a few of the boys afterwards, they are very well grounded and are not getting too carried away...it helps when you are having such a season, and there is a lot of experience in that team. [Former Socceroo legend] Mark Schwarzer [now on the bench as Leicester's back-up goalkeeper], I chatted to him for a while. Having him there, he is an experienced head there, seeing the situation, it works wonders for the manager and the guys in the squad."

Of more immediate concern to Jedinak and his teammates are the two games coming up. Australia beat Tajikistan 3-0 in Dushanbe in September so will be strongly fancied to win the fixture in Adelaide. They lost 2-0 in Jordan a month later so the pressure is on to reverse that result when the two sides meet in Sydney next week.

"It's very important [to finish top of the group]. It was our intention from the start, and it has not changed. We know going forward, starting with the game on Thursday, if you cop a result there you have to look to winning the game against Jordan as well."

The Jordanians have been Australia's bogey team for some time now and Jedinak believes that many inexperienced players are taken aback by the atmosphere they encounter for the first time in the Middle East in away fixtures.

"I think it can be a new experience for people, they don't really understand the atmosphere and hostility there.

"It's played in a different way, but in saying that we have been to some tough places even in this campaign and got the job done. You can't put it down to one particular thing, it's just something we need to learn from."

As national team captain and one of the most experienced players in the squad, Jedinak is acutely aware that his job is twofold: to perform on the pitch and to ensure that squad newcomers – this time there are three uncapped players in Apostolos Giannou, Alex Gersbach and Jason Geria – are all quickly integrated into the Postecoglou system and know what is expected of them straight away.

"I think it's expected of us now, particularly the guys who have been with him [Postecoglou] since he came in.

"Getting acclimatised always takes a little bit of time, but in terms of doing the work on the field you are expected to hit the ground running and then set the standard for the guys who are new to the set-up. That's the way it should be, I think.

"The boys coming in for the first time, some of them, they see that it's a step up, and for whoever comes in, when they do go back to their clubs they think this is somewhere I want to be all the time, this is the level I want to get to."