Australia have had a change of leadership since qualifying for the World Cup. Can they better their last two forays at the finals?
Honours: Asian Nations Cup 2015, Nations Cup of Nations in 1980, 1996, 2000 and 2004.
FIFA Ranking: 40th
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
The Socceroos, members of Asian qualifying section since 2006, have had to travel to claim their spot in Russia. Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Thailand, Syria (with a detour in Malaysia) and finally Honduras.
Ange Postecoglou’s men overcame two two-legged affairs against Syria and Honduras to secure a fifth appearance at the finals.
STAR MAN – Tim Cahill
The 38-year-old midfielder/striker has an improbable strike rate of 50 goals in 105 games for the Socceroos. Russia 2018 will be his fourth appearance and were he to score, he would join Pele and the Germans Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose as the only players to do so. He currently has five goals to his name at World Cup finals.
He re-joined Millwall after some 14 years after leaving the club but failed to hit the target in 10 league games this season and is currently a free agent.
NEXT BIG THING – Daniel Arzani
The 19-year-old has had meteoric rise. He has been a sensation for Melbourne City this season, exploding on to the scene in January and not looking back since.
The winger only made his debut for the nation team against Czech Republic on June 1 2018, before being named in Bert van Marwijk’s 23-man squad. His searing pace, beguiling dribbling and pinpoint delivery will be crucial if Australia are to emerge from Group C.
THE COACH – Bert van Marwijk
The Socceroos found themselves in a pickle after Ange Postecoglou decided to resign as manager in November.
The Football Federation Australia turned to Bert van Marwijk, who manoeuvred an unfancied Saudi Arabia side to the World Cup ahead of Australia, after the Dutchman left his post as the Green Falcons’ boss in September.
Van Marwijk has World Cup predigree, having led the Netherlands to the 2010 final.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
The Socceroos first made the finals in 1974 but there was a 32-year hiatus before their next appearance. They made it out of a tough group that also included Brazil, Croatia and Japan but were felled by eventual winners Italy at the round of 16 in 2006.
However, they failed to emerge from the Group Stage in either 2010 and 2014.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
“We did not have the best players but we had the best team,” said Bert van Marwijk of his 2010 Netherlands team.
The Socceroos will hope for more of the same in Russia.
June 16th: France
June 21st: Denmark
June 26th: Peru