World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: Anguish for Australia
Past tournaments: 1974, 2006, 2010
Previous Best: Second Round, Germany 2006.
How they got here: The Socceroos made hard work of qualifying, only securing their place with a narrow 1-0 win over Iraq in the final round of group games.
Normally that would be enough but 6-0 hammerings at the hands of Brazil and France left a sour taste in the mouths of the Federation Football Australia who sacked German coach Holdger Osieck and brought in Ante Postecoglou in his place with the simple mission of blooding in more young players.
In the months since the likes of Lucas Neill, Brett Holmann and Mark Schwarzer have all retired.
Star man: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
While a number of Australia’s European-based players are either past their best or plying their trade in the lower tiers of their respective country’s leagues, Jedinak is coming into this tournament off the back of arguably his best-ever campaign, having impressed for the Eagles over the past two years.
Tough in the tackle but with an excellent passing range and capable of scoring key goals, if Australia are to do the unthinkable and actually pick up a point from their three fixtures, then the Palace man will need to be at his best. There will be some concerns over the player, given that he has just returned from injury, but if fit he will play.
Under the radar: Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt)
With Postecoglou expressing reservations about current target man Joshua Kennedy and Max Kruse out through injury, the World Cup may be Matthew Leckie’s chance to shine.
Currently playing in Bundesliga 2 with FSV, the 23-year-old has already sealed a move to Ingolstadt 04, having scored 10 goals this term. With Australia eager to test out more young players at the tournament as part of a long-term development plan, Leckie looks a likely starter.
Team nutcase: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
Though still a key man for the Socceroos, Cahill remains arguably Australia’s most controversial star, known for notorious incidents like his ‘handcuffs’ goal celebration, the former Everton man ended his Toffees career in infamous style, slapping a ball boy during an entirely unnecessary end of season confrontation.
He’s also got a track record for losing his head at the World Cup, having been sent off during Australia’s 2010 confrontation with Germany for a bizarre knee-slide tackle.
How will they get on?
Facing arguably the toughest possible group, Australia are under no illusions as to their chances, with the Soccerroos looking near certainties to be eliminated early.
And with games against Chile, Holland and Spain in the offing, the Socceroos could go the whole hog and lose all three of their games. Provided the scorelines remain sensible and young players gain valuable experience though, that won’t be a disaster to the Aussies.
Relive Australia’s memorable 31-0 victory over American Samoa from back in 2001.
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