Australia won the CONCACAF-AFC play-off in order to qualify for this year’s World Cup, defeating Honduras 3-1 on aggregate thanks to a hat-trick from Mile Jedinak of all people.
Australia Squad Outlook
Brad Jones, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic; Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Matthew Jurman, Fran Karacic, James Meredith, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury; Josh Brillante, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi; Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Mathew Leckie, Andrew Nabbout, Dimitri Petratos, Nikita Rukavytsya, Jamie Maclaren (Preliminary 27-Man Squad)
Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy is the Socceroo’s best player. The Sydney-born creator has really found a home at the John Smith stadium after turning an initial loan move permanent last summer, with the 27-year-old’s impressive performances key to David Wagner’s side’s magnificent rise from Championship strugglers to Premier League survivors and will look to transfer his good form onto the international stage.
Alongside Mooy will be Australian captain Jedinak who will be a force to be reckoned with in the holding midfield role after a Championship season which ended successfully/in heartbreak in the Play-off final with Aston Villa.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan played an important role in Brighton’s Premier League survival as well, keeping 10 clean sheets in his 38 appearances for the Seagulls and will be looking to the likes of Millwall’s James Meredith and Grasshopper’s Trent Sainsbury to help him keep the other group sides at bay.
Going forward, Hertha Berlin forward Mathew Leckie will be key to creating chances and, of course, you cannot forget about Tim Cahill. One to watch for the Aussies will be Tom Rogic, with the Celtic attacking midfielder attracting Premier League interest in recent weeks from sides like Southampton and some good displays from Rogic at the World Cup may well persuade the Saints or another Premier League side to make a move for him.
Andrew Nabbout is perhaps their worst player, with the 25-year-old expected to be Australia’s main back-up striker to Tomi Juric but Nabbout hardly has a goal scoring record to be proud of, with just 32 in 116 games in the A-league, Malaysia Super League and J1 League, begging the question as to why Hibernian’s Jamie Maclaren was only called up as injury cover, despite scoring eight goals in his last 13 games.
King of the Country
Cahill is definitely Australia’s best ever player with the 38-year-old the Aussie’s leading goal-scorer and their second most capped player. Cahill established himself in English football with spells at Millwall and Everton and the midfielder-turned-forward has scored at three consecutive World Cups for Australia and is looking to make it a fourth in Russia.
Who’s the Gaffa
Former Feyenoord and Holland boss Bert van Marwijk will be in charge of the Socceroo’s World Cup campaign following former manager Ange Postecoglou’s decision to stand down after their play-off win against Honduras in November. Van Marwijk has brought Dutch legend Mark van Bommel with him for the campaign but will not be a permanent appointment for Australia with Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold set to return to the fold following the end of the competition.
Likely finish in the group: 4th
With France the clear favourites in the group, Peru and Denmark are ranked 11th and 12th in the FIFA World Rankings (ahead of England in 13th) whereas Australia are down in 40th and under a new manager who is only in charge for their competition so, despite their wealth of talent in midfield and the potential for a fairy-tale moment for Cahill, I can’t see them making it out of the group.
Lazy Fan Fact:
Australia travelled over 250,000km in their quest to qualify for the World Cup, playing away fixtures against the likes of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
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