Australia: World Cup 2018 Preview

Australia will be competing in the World Cup once again. They lie in Group C alongside France, Peru and Denmark which makes them slight underdogs of the group and would need a big upset to have a chance of qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.

This is Australia’s fifth time in the competition. Their best run was getting to the Round of 16 in 2006 and in their last World Cup, they got eliminated in the group stage in 2014.
Their first game is against France on June 16th in the Kazan Arena. That is followed up with a game against Denmark on June 21st in the Samara Arena. In their last game of the group stage, they face Peru on June 26th in the Fisht Stadium. Do they have a chance of surpassing the group stage?

Roster

Goalkeepers: Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk)
Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Bluewings), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshoppers)
Midfielders: Jackson Irvine (Hull), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers), Mark Milligan (Al Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic)
Forwards: Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tim Cahill (Millwall), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Nikita Rukavytsya (Maccabi Haifa), James Maclaren (Darmstadt)

Coach: Bert van Marwijk

Australia’s current coach is Bert van Marwijk. He is a Dutchman who previously managed Fortuna Sittard, Feyenoord, Borussia Dortmund, Netherlands, Hamburger SV, Saudi Arabia and Australia (currently). He successfully brought Saudi Arabia to the World Cup. He earned automatic qualification to Russia from an Asian qualification group which included Australia. This gave him a good idea of Australia’s strengths and weaknesses. He guided the Netherlands to the World Cup Final in 2010, narrowly being defeated 1-0 by Spain in the final. Van Marwijk will be only in charge of the Socceroos until the end of the World Cup as Graham Arnold will takeover.

Road to Russia

Australia came third in Group B of the AFC Qualifiers (Asian Football Confederation). This meant they advanced to the 4th round and the top two teams qualified for Russia automatically. Their 4th round qualifier was against Honduras. Whoever won this game secured their place in the 2018 World Cup, luckily for the Socceroos, Australia came out victorious 3-1.

Style of Play

Van Marwijk is largely a pragmatist, rarely deviating from a fairly rigid 4-2-3-1 formation. He wants his full-backs to get forward and his wingers to cut in, but he’ll seldom play without two holding midfielders and isn’t averse to dropping numbers behind the ball all together. The history of Dutch football is built on revolutionary attacking play, positionless formations and the prioritisation of possession.

Key Player: Aaron Mooy

Aaron Mooy is a rock in the Australia midfield. He plays in the centre of midfield and creates most things going forward for Australia and club side Huddersfield. He played a big part in Huddersfield’s relegation battle in which they remained safe in the Premier League. He had a superb 2017/18 season for Huddersfield. Australia will look to give him the ball and get him involved in set piece situations wherever possible.

Verdict

The Aussies are in a really tough group and they’ll be looked at as perhaps the weakest team in the group. France, Denmark and Peru are considered to have more talent and on paper, they would give Australia a beating anyday. If Australia could manage to pick up points against France, they’ll be in a really good place otherwise if they lose it’ll put them in a bad spot. Personally I can’t see them making it past the group stage but we will have to find out, this is football….

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