The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Australia

Australia National Team

The Socceroos

Socceroos

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Australia
Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 5-4-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 40th
World Cup 2014 Finish – 1st round exit
Russia 2018 Group C (France, AUSTRALIA, Peru, Denmark)
Formation – 4-3-3
Strengths – Experience, quality midfield
Weaknesses – Reliance on Tim Cahill so goals may be hard to come by and having a new
coach so close to the World Cup may affect team’s cohesion.
Major Threats – Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic

Ahead of the World Cup Australian fans have mixed emotions about how the team will
perform in Russia. It’s hard to say how Australia will go against France, Denmark and Peru
but we know they will be hard opponents to face and they all believe Australia will be
beatable so that may suit the Socceroos as historically they do well as the underdog.

With Ange Postecoglou resigning as coach just days after beating Honduras in the play-off, it
meant that the four years the team spent working and learning his style and system of play
were consigned to history.
Postecoglou was a risk taker who liked his team to attack and press. He used a 3-5-2
formation that was used to make the most of the talent in midfield but just as the team was
getting used to it, he quit.

The team has talent but now they may not have enough time to adapt to a new coach Bert
van Marwijk. The new manager is the opposite of his predecessor, he is pragmatic and
defensive minded and qualified Saudi Arabia for the tournament before before ‘let go’.

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Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

In recent friendlies the team were smashed by Norway then held on for 0-0 draw against Colombia. If Australia does get out of the group phase it will be a success by the FFA but if they don’t play competitive football and are knocked out by the third game it will be viewed as a failure.

DEFENSE:

Australia’s last line of defence Matt Ryan has had plenty of practice saving goals during the English Premier League season with Brighton, so he should be sharp when facing France, Peru and Denmark in Russia.
The 26-year-old will be playing in his second World Cup and after a mixed performance in
Brazil 2014 he will be looking to be more consistent for Australia at this World Cup. His agility and shot stopping talent is not in question but it’s his judgement and lack of height at 6ft and ½ inch which is not the biggest size for a keeper that can let him down.

The back four of Australia will consist of Josh Risdon at right back, Trent Sainsbury and Mat
Jurman in central defence and Aziz Behich at left back. Sainsbury is one of the team’s best players. He has a good passing range, can play out from the back and is solid in defence. The
fullbacks are a question mark and Mat Jurman is prone to mistakes. The defence is not
Australia’s strongest point so will they will need protecting by their midfield.

My humble suggestion? Josh Risdon at right back is inexperienced and is considered the weakest link. The other option is Fran Karacic who is a 21-year-old right back who has been a regular starter for Lokomotiva Zagreb in the Croatian 1st Division. Bailey Wright who was a regular under Postecoglou was left out of the squad. So, Sainsbury who has top flight European experience in Holland is the player who will have all the pressure of keeping the defence stable. Bert van Marwijk will not be pushing the fullbacks to attack like Postecoglou so it remains to be seen how they manage their new roles.

MIDFIELD:

The strongest points of the team is the physicality of players like Aston Villa’s Mile Jedinak, the dribbling, flair and long-range shooting of Celtic’s Tom Rogic and Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy’s passing. However not all three will be playing from the start as van Marwijk in recent friendlies looked to favour Queens Park Rangers Massimo Luongo over Rogic as he can attack and defend.

EPL based Huddersfield Aaron Mooy started the season on fire but in the latter half of the
campaign lost form. Socceroos fans would love to see the Celtic version of Tom Rogic who
scores goals and provides assist to turn up in Russia but unfortunately Rangers isn’t in the
World Cup.

Jackson Irvine is also in the mix for the midfield. After an impressive season with Burton
Albion he made the move in the off-season to Hull and he has been a regular fixture in the
English Championship this season playing the majority of the Tigers 46 games.
Irvine has played 17 games for the Socceroos and became a regular fixture during the
gruelling qualification campaign and can play the box to box role.

With Postecoglou Australia played attacking football with a high press but Van Marwijk’s
tactics in his games against Colombia and Norway had the team standing back and opting a
much more defensive structure.
It is the opposite of playing to the Socceroos previous strengths so again how the midfield is
set up against France, Peru and Denmark is hard to guess after only a few friendly games.

Mooy

Aaron Mooy of Australia

STRIKERS:

The overreliance of 38-year-old Tim Cahill as striker for the Socceroos is a concern. But his
record at a World Cup is undeniable. He has scored five of Australia’s 11 FIFA World Cup
goals and he’s one of only nine players to have scored at each of the last three World Cups.
The concern is that he’s hardly played this year and will be used mostly as an impact player
off the bench.

Tomi Juric will probably be Australia’s starting striker in Russia, but he has been injured on
and off this season and seven goals in 27 games for Swiss club FC Luzern is nothing to write
home about. However, he does hold the ball up well and can score but does need a number of
chances to do so.

Players like Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse who are based in Germany have a lot of
experience and will be a dangerous threat out wide. While Dimi Petratos form for Newcastle
Jet’s in the A-League included 11 assist and 10 goals and saw the 25-year-old receive his first call up to the Socceroos.

Every time upcoming star Daniel Arzani touched the ball for Melbourne City in the A-League
this season his skill, dribbling and willingness to take on players got fans off their feet. He was left out of the Socceroos recent friendlies against Norway and Columbia but fans are
delighted the Young Footballer of the Year was included in Van Marwijk’s 23 player squad
for Russia.

GAME by GAME (v France, v Denmark, v Peru)

*Keys to France Game: The French team are massive favourites against Australia. But while they have attacking power that most teams in Russia can only dream of, Les Blues has issues in midfield.
Australians think France will top the group and if they don’t make the semi-finals it will be a surprise. Didier Deschamps has concerns fitting Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi into the midfield trio, especially when Paul
Pogba or N’Golo Kante are missing.
But Australia’s biggest worry is stopping France’s attacking players such as Paris Saint
Germain’s Kylian Mbappe whose lightning pace, goal scoring touch, creative vision and out
of this world dribbling skills could hurt the Socceroos.
Prediction: France should defeat Australia comfortably as they have too much firepower in attack.

*Keys to Denmark Game: Denmark didn’t perform well at the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championships, but the 2018 Danes could be a force to be reckoned with.
Many of their key players are playing in Europe’s top leagues and the team has a bona-fide
world class playmaker in Christian Eriksen. Leicester City goal keeper Kasper Schmeichel is a
rock at the back. While he is capable of doing the spectacular, it’s the Dane’s reflexes, speed off the line and distribution that make him a great goalkeeper.
He will be a commanding figure in the box and his leadership quality will be important at
Russia.
Still, one problem that Demark has is that they don’t have a regular goal scorer. Feyenoord’s
Nicolai Jorgensen while deadly in the air and has a strong physical presence in the box and is
technically gifted has been out of form and lacking fitness. He lost his scoring touch and only managed two goals in seven games for Denmark during qualifying and this season has only
eight strikes in 23 league games for Feyenoord.
Then there is the over reliance on Eriksen. Many in Denmark feel that his performances in
the recent friendly games against Panama and Chile were subpar and that he only operated
at 50 percent of his optimal level.
Socceroos fans will be hoping that he suffers from fatigue issues and that he arrives in
Russia depleted after a massive season for Tottenham Hotspur.
Prediction: A draw 2-2 the final score

*Keys to Peru Game: Peru have that South American flair and street smarts and will be a dangerous opponent for Australia.
Lokomotiv Moscow winger Jefferson Farfan long-range strike helped Peru to a 2-0 win in the
intercontinental play off against New Zealand earning the South Americans a spot at the
World Cup for the first time in 26 years. He will be a major threat out wide or upfront.
The Socceroos should also view Christian Cueva as one of Peru’s main attacking danger
weapons. He plays the number 10 role for Peru and 26-year-old has that typical South
American flair with amazing close control and a deceptive burst of pace and strength.
There is also winger Andre Carillo who has loads of skill, possess great speed and clever
footwork and will be another player Australia has to watch. He also has high levels of
stamina and will relentlessly terrorise his opponent on that right wing. All this and we’ve not yet mentioned the talisman Paolo Guerrero! Scary.
But one way Australia can defeat Peru is via their defence. They struggle in the air and out
of the 27 goals that Peru conceded in CONMEBOL qualifying, 10 came from set pieces and
four were scored at the far post.
The central defensive pairing of Alberto Rodríguez and Christian Ramos and their ability to
handle free kicks that come into the box has come into question and Australia should
exploit this situation.
Australia will have a definite height advantage in the box, as during their recent play-off
against the All-Whites Peru only had five players who were six foot tall or over.
Prediction: Australia to win 1-0 in a close game.

Australia

Socceroos World Cup Squad

Likely Starting Line up:
4-3-3
GK : Matt Ryan
Defence: Josh Risdon-RB, Trent Sainsbury -CB, Mat Jurman-CB, Aziz Behich-LB
Midfield :Mile Jedinak- CDM Aaron Mooy/ Tom Rogic – CAM Massimo Luongo – CM
Attack: Tom Juric -Striker, Mathew Leckie – winger. Robbie Kruse- winger

Piece by Con Stamocostas, the guru of Australian footie journalism, frequent contributor for four four two Australia, co-host of the A-League Snobcast, dean of Australia’s footie league, the king Down Under. Find him at https://twitter.com/constama10 and peep his website A Football Story today!

 

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