FINALS GUIDE: GROUP C FEARLESS
Ryan says he won’t get French fried
GOALKEEPER Mat Ryan faces the French revolution of strikers in the Socceroos’ opening World Cup battle.
Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps has a formidable firing line of Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele at his disposal.
Brighton man Ryan, 26, could be forgiven for shaking just a little in his boots ahead of the June 16 clash in Kazan.
But think again.
The Australia goalkeeper has just emerged from the toughest of domestic campaigns where he played every minute of the Seagulls’ successful survival mission.
No Premier League keeper faced more shots than Ryan last season – an astonishing 560 in total at an average of almost 15 per game. So he will not have any fear about facing the French after feeling the heat in England’s top flight.
Ryan said: “Playing in the Premier League this season has been great preparation for the World Cup, and it was one of the reasons why I signed for Brighton.
“You are up against world-class strikers every single week and I knew it would help me become a better keeper.
“It’s a tough start in Russia. France will be one of the favourites and they have some fantastic players. But we won’t go into the game with any fear.
“Australians have always been tough competitors and nothing has changed that.”
Team-mate Tim Cahill, 38, believes Ryan is worth his weight in gold and will stay strong in the face of some ferocious firepower.
He said: “For us as a national team, he’s indispensable. The best thing Maty has done was go to the Premier League and play in the hardest league in the world.
“He has seen out the whole season and has been exceptional – one of the main players in Brighton’s squad. He has a lot of amazing traits as a goalkeeper and he’s still evolving.”
Back home the Aussie cricketers’ ball-tampering scandal led to bans for Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft and left the sport stained forever.
But Ryan hopes the Socceroos’ performances in Russia can show football in a better light.
He added: “What happened with the cricket team was unfortunate to say the least. I don’t think people will be looking at the football team any differently. What the cricket team did has nothing to do with us.
“Maybe we can get people talking about Australian sport for all the right reasons again. But we won’t change the way we play the game.
“You have to be tough when you go to the top level, there’s no other way. The cricketers know they crossed a line but we can’t let that change what we do. “We got to the World Cup by fighting hard and playing tough. And we’ll continue to do that.”