Australia - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Paul Williams reports
Road to Brazil
Australia got the job done. That's the best way to describe their path to Brazil. It wasn't always pretty, and it came down to the final minutes in the final qualifier at home against Iraq, but they got the job done.
They did so against a backdrop of rising angst from the local media and fans as the generational change that many had called for failed to materialise as coach Holger Osieck stuck with the tried and tested “golden generation”.
After getting out of jail at home against Oman, when they were 0-2 down after 50 minutes, their qualification came down to three games in three weeks in June 2013, starting with the most daunting trip of all - a trip to Saitama Stadium to face Japan.
What followed was a typical backs-to-the-wall performance that the Socceroos are so famous for. Gritty and determined Australia withstood a second half barrage from the hosts and were just minutes away from a most famous win after Tommy Oar had put them ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
The point and the performance galvanised the side as they travelled back to Australia for the final two games, with a Josh Kennedy header late in the final match against Iraq sealing Australia's third consecutive appearance at the FIFA World Cup.
Australia Kit 1
Australia Kit 2
In the months that followed qualification a listless, some would say hopeless, Australian side were on the receiving end of consecutive 6-0 results against Brazil and France, the latter costing Holger Osieck his job. In stepped Ange Postecoglou and the landscape changed entirely.
It didn't happen instantly, but slowly over the period of a few months the "golden generation" saw the writing on the wall and pulled the pin on their international careers, with Mark Schwarzer shocking everyone when he announced his retirement just before Postecoglou was due to name his first squad for last year's Costa Rica friendly.
Suddenly the World Cup isn't the end game, at least not the one in Brazil. Postecoglou has named a squad with an eye on the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, to be hosted by Australia, and with both eyes firmly on qualification for Russia 2018.
In some ways being placed in the toughest group possible is a blessing in disguise. There are zero expectations. Fans, both in Australia and around the world, expect Australia to get beaten and beaten easily. This allows Postecoglou the chance to implement his system and style without the worry of having to achieve a certain level of results. Of course he will never admit that, however. Publically he is still talking a good game.
Postecoglou is a coach known for his attacking, high pressing, high octane style of football. It requires maximum fitness, commitment and discipline. He achieved remarkable success with Brisbane Roar and was on his way to achieving similar with Melbourne Victory before his country called.
Gone are the days of the Socceroos sitting back, playing slow tempo football and pumping in long balls, or aimless crosses for Josh Kennedy or Tim Cahill. Under Postecoglou expect the wingers and full backs to push forward looking to exploit space in behind the opposition defence.
With an inexperienced defence, extra importance will be placed on newly installed captain Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan in central midfield. They'll ve expected to shield the back four and will be crucial in setting up Australia's attack.
Key player: Mile Jedinak
Coming off the back of a stellar season with Crystal Palace, where he was rightly lauded for his performances, he will be expected to be just as influential for Australia.
Given it is likely Australia will be on the back foot for large parts of their games, Jedinak will be crucial in breaking up the attacks of Chile, Holland and Spain, and conversely being the man to start the Socceroos attacks at the other end.
One to watch: Ben Halloran
Ben Halloran is the biggest winner from Robbie Kruse's misfortune. After a slow start for Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2.Bundesliga, he exploded in the last few months of the season with a handful of goals and impressive performances catching the attention of Postecoglou.
He did his chances no harm with an impressive cameo off the bench in the farewell match against South Africa, also his national team debut. Along with Tommy Oar, Mathew Leckie and Tom Rogic he looks set to be an important player in Australia's attack.
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
It's been a whirlwind few months for Postecoglou after answering an SOS from Football Federation Australia last October. Most coaches get four years to plan their World Cup campaign, building up through qualifying and going into the tournament with a settled squad who know the game plan. Postecoglou has had just eight months. True to form he hasn't wasted any time, quickly stamping his authority on the team, on and off the pitch. On it he has overseen a quick regeneration of the squad, likewise off it where he has installed a new backroom staff of his own choosing. While personal pride will mean he wants to achieve success at the World Cup, he has a five-year contract and a clear plan for the team. The World Cup is the first step in that process.
1974, 2010 First Round. 2006 Round of 16
Australia has nothing to lose. It is expected to be the whipping boy of Group B. In reality it's probably not an unfair assessment. This is the first step in a rebuilding process, with Russia 2018 the end goal. Australia will not progress from Group B, and it will be considered a fine achievement if they depart Brazil with a point next to their name.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Mat Ryan (Club Brugge), Mitch Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United)
Defenders: IIvan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Jason Davidson (Heracles), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)
Midfielders: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), James Troisi (Atalanta), James Holland (Austria Wien), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar)
Strikers: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)