Australia first team to arrive for World Cup

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Australia was the first squad to arrive for the World Cup when it touched down at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday.

The Socceroos, one of the first teams to qualify, arrived after dark at South Africa's main international airport in Johannesburg — and were the first to test the special arrival facility constructed by the airport for World Cup squads.

Teams arriving in South Africa have dedicated arrival facilities, where they will be processed away from regular passengers and fans because of security concerns.

The 28 players — five of whom will not make the final squad — flew in a chartered jet from Melbourne. The squad posed briefly for TV cameras and photographers before being whisked away by bus to their team base on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

"We are pleased to welcome Australia as the first team to arrive in our country," said organizing committee chief executive Danny Jordaan, who was at the airport to welcome the squad.

"We all know that the stadiums are all ready, everything is in place and now the teams are finally here. More importantly though, our people are ready," Jordaan said.

Australia's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek said: "I have been in this country about eight or nine times already and I have always enjoyed my stay here.

"The most important thing for us is to win our first game. We have given ourselves plenty of time to prepare and acclimatize to the local conditions. The players will have to get used to the altitude and the few warm-up matches will help us a lot in achieving this," Verbeek said.

Conditioning will be crucial for the Australians, who open their group campaign against three-time World Cup winner Germany in the coastal city of Durban on June 13, before traveling up to the high-altitude cities of Rustenburg and Nelspruit to play Ghana and Serbia.

Australia will warm up for the tournament with friendlies against Denmark and the United States, games which will take place after Verbeek has trimmed his squad to a final 23-man group ahead of the June 1 FIFA deadline.

The team is expected to include English Premier League stars Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer, captain Lucas Neill and former Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell.

Earlier Wednesday, the Australian High Commission welcomed the team and said in a statement "Australia is proud that the Socceroos will be the first team to arrive in South Africa." It also said Australia's Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, is scheduled to visit for the tournament.

Brazil is the next team to arrive, on Thursday morning, with Denmark and Argentina due this weekend and the U.S. expected on Monday.

Spain, the final team to touch down in South Africa, is planning to fly in June 11 — the same day as the opening game between the host nation and Mexico.