AUSTRALIA may have qualified for next year's World Cup a few weeks ago but the countdown to Russia 2018 began in earnest on Saturday when the draw officially marked the occasion and our opponents became known.
No "group of death" as we had in Brazil in 2014.
Spain, the reigning champions at the time, the Netherlands and Chile. But France, Denmark and Peru will be no walk in the park.
All three are currently ranked well above the Socceroos - No. 9 in the world, 11 and 12 respectively compared with Australia at 39th - but we have got to give ourselves a chance of going through to the round of 16.
It's ironic that we will play France, the team who's 6-0 drubbing of Australia back in 2013 brought about the demise of the then coach, Holger Osieck, and gave the recently resigned Ange Postecoglou his chance.
But then we don't need to dwell on the past. It's time to roll up the sleeves and get planning for next year's challenge.
Didier Deschamps, the French manager who captained Les Blues to victory as a player in 1998 on home turf, wrote us off with typical French panache as having a "British team profile" and the Danish and Peruvian coaches both admitted they didn't know much about us and would have to do some research.
Good. Let them underestimate us, the French in particular, and maybe they can learn a bit more about our fighting spirit when we play them in game one on June 16 in Kazan.
I know it all sounds a bit cliched and heroic but France does have some history of their Gallic egos getting in the road of performance, so playing them in the opening match might be the best time to get them.
Ideally, our first opponent would have been Peru who qualified fifth of 10 teams in South America and had to knock over New Zealand (2-0) to book a spot. But we don't get them until round three of the group stage which could work in our favour if we are chasing a point or three to go through.
It is what it is and we take each game as it comes. The important thing, as I said a few weeks ago, is that our flag is flying on June 16, 2018 and there will be a sea of Socceroo shirts as our supporters invade Russia to cheer the team on.
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