SYDNEY: World player of the year Ronaldinho is wary of the Guus Hiddink factor when defending champions Brazil take on minnows Australia in their World Cup Group F match in Munich on June 18.
Ronaldinho believes the master Dutch coach is transforming Australia into the neutral supporter's "other" favourite team at this month's World Cup in Germany.
Australia are making their first appearance at the World Cup finals in 32 years after eliminating two-time champions Uruguay in a play-off last November.
Brazil have long enjoyed being loved by the vast majority in world football for their flamboyant playing style, but Ronaldinho thinks that the remarkable Australian qualifying story has begun to push Hiddink's team into the hearts and minds of football neutrals.
"Even though Australia looks a formidable team and they are our key group rivals, I have to admit that I'm fascinated by them from a purely personal point of view," Ronaldinho said.
"Apart from appointing one of the top four or five coaches in the world, what Australia did when they signed Hiddink was drag world attention onto themselves."
Hiddink, who leaves Australia to take up a lucrative appointment as head coach of Russia after the World Cup, has guided the Netherlands and South Korea to the semi-finals of the last two World Cups.
"Anyone with an interest in soccer understands that Hiddink is a magnificent achiever and someone whose names stand for perpetual success. So I think that focused people's attention, all around the world, on how Australia might do in qualifying.
"Then if you take the drama and the romanticism of the win over Uruguay it seems to me that Australia has become an easy team for the neutrals to support.
Ronaldinho says that everyone he speaks to seems to have a good word for Australia in the sporting sense and "lots of decent judges" have identified them as a team that could make a surprising impact in Germany.
"I can't claim to know the first-choice team player by player, yet, but I know about the majority of top players and I'm aware that most of Australia's key men play in leagues scattered all around the world.
He said that given the difficulties Brazil faces with travelling to and from qualifying matches or friendlies, he finds it "remarkable that a slightly smaller soccer nation like Australia can achieve all that they have done."
"The evidence is that Hiddink has achieved a unified and winning mentality in his team. That's impressive and it's a little dangerous, too."
Everywhere Hiddink has gone - Valencia, Real Madrid, PSV, Korea, Australia - he "has been a byword for popular, winning football" the Barcelona-based No10 said.
"Not many coaches get the kind of phone calls he's been getting from FC Barcelona, from Real Madrid, from Roman Abramovich and from the English FA.
"He's in demand because he's a coach who achieves massive success, who has won the European Champions League and who took Korea to the brink of the World Cup final four years ago.
"I hope that when we play Australia we can break this habit of his and defeat them but both before and after our game in Munich I'll be watching Hiddink's team with interest to see how they do."
Source: China Daily