Well-prepared Aussies can upset weakened rivals

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As the first team to qualify for the World Cup and the first to arrive in South Africa, Australia are a team who pride themselves on preparation, and such well-laid plans could be the foundation for an unexpectedly productive tournament for the Socceroos.

They have been given a tough draw in Group D – with Germany, Serbia and Ghana for company – but that will prove no barrier for a side who have been a fixture in Fifa’s top 20 ranked nations over the last year.

Group D is wide open, and following injuries to the totemic German and Ghanaian figures of Michael Ballack and Michael Essien, Australia will be quietly confident of qualifying for the last 16.

Should Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell fire, the Socceroos are a tempting bet at 8/1 to go one stage further than they did in 2006 by being eliminated in the quarter-finals.

Whereas Australia hope to reap the rewards for efficient preparation, Nigeria will enter the World Cup somewhat in disarray.

The Super Eagles have had to contend with the cancellation of friendly matches and the abandonment of a training camp in London, yet they still look likely to progress from the group stage and are well priced at 9/4 to be knocked out in round two.

Argentina are clear favourites in Group B, but Nigeria have a squad bursting with pace and goals, and an attack comprised of Everton’s Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Obafemi Martins of Wolfsburg should cause mayhem in South Korean and Greek defences.

Even with the disruption of their pre-tournament plans, Nigeria are worth backing to reach the second round for the first time since 1998, and prove that failing to prepare does not necessarily mean preparing to fail.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.