Australia World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament

Dan Colasimone@@ArgentinaFWContributor IMay 14, 2014

Australia World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament

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    SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press

    National team coach Ange Postecoglou has named a young, inexperienced Australia squad ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

    The 30-man preliminary squad revealed on Wednesday will be pruned to 23 on June 2.

    The Socceroos are rank outsiders to qualify for the knockout stages, as they face three daunting Group B opponents in Chile, the Netherlands and Spain.

    Postecoglou himself has only been in charge since October. He had just two friendly games to test out players before announcing his side.

    His squad contains 10 players who currently ply their trade in the A-League, while many of the big names from previous World Cup campaigns, such as Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill, are no longer involved.

    The average number of international caps among the 30 named is just 17, compared to 33 in 2010 and 27 in 2006. 

    Read on for a detailed guide to the Socceroos squad.


Road to the Finals

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    It was not until beanpole striker Josh Kennedy rose above a stagnant Iraqi defence to head home a Mark Bresciano cross in the 82nd minute of Australia's final World Cup qualifying game that the Socceroos could finally feel they were on their way to Brazil.

    Such was the unconvincing nature of their qualifying campaign that Australia needed positive results in their last three matches—a 1-1 draw away to Japan, a 4-0 win over Jordan and the last-gasp 1-0 victory against Iraqto book their place at the World Cup finals.

    The Socceroos joined the Asian Football Confederation qualifying process in the third round, with their first match of the campaign, against Thailand in Brisbane, taking place in September, 2011.

    Australia came from behind to win that match 2-1, and went on to cruise through that first group phase, in which they were also pitted against Oman and Saudi Arabia, with relative ease. 

    They did lose one match 1-0 to Oman in Muscat, but won the other five fixtures to top the group and qualify for the next stage.


    AFC Qualifying Third Round

    Group D

    Saudi Arabia61326


    In the final group stage, Holger Osieck's team were drawn against archrivals Japan, as well as Jordan, Iraq and Oman again.

    This leg of the journey would prove more complicated than the first group phase, and this was reflected in the first three matches.

    The opening match against Oman was another tough away fixture which ended in a 0-0 draw, before the Socceroos had to return home to face Japan in Brisbane.

    The Blue Samurai dominated that game, and looked to be in the box seat when Mark Milligan was sent off for the hosts and Yuzo Kurihara put the visitors in front with 25 minutes remaining. 

    Australia were awarded a penalty in the 68th minute, however, and Luke Wilkshire converted to earn them a fortunate draw.

    Things went from bad to worse for the Socceroos when they lost 2-1 away to Saudi Arabia, leaving them with just two points after three games.

    A 2-1 win over Iraq eased some of the pressure, but that was followed by a shock 2-2 home draw against Oman in Sydney. 

    The situation looked quite dire at that stage, with Australia sitting in third on the table (out of the automatic qualifying places) and facing a trip to Japan next up.

    A stirring, backs-to-the-wall display in Saitama reinvigorated their campaign, however. 

    Tommy Oar put the Socceroos in front against a superior Japan outfit with a cross/shot in the 82nd minute.

    The home team would equalise courtesy of a Keisuke Honda penalty in injury time, but the Australians had shown enough fight to indicate they still desperately wanted to be in Brazil.

    The 4-0 hammering of Jordan in the penultimate fixture allowed the Socceroos to take control of their own fate, and Kennedy's late strike against Iraq on a rainy night in Sydney finished off the qualifying process on a high note.

    Australia took second place in the group behind Japan and secured automatic qualification for Brazil 2014.


    AFC Qualifying Fourth Round 

    Japan8 5 2 1 17
    Australia8 3 4 1 13
    Jordan8 3 1 4 10
    Oman8 2 3 3 9
    Iraq8 1 2 5 8



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    Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Player-by-player analysis of the squad can be found here.

    These are the names Postecoglou read out on Wednesday:

    Goalkeepers: Mark Birighitti (Newcastle Jets), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitch Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge)

    Defenders: Josh Brillante (Newcastle Jets), Jason Davison (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Curtis Good (Dundee United), Ryan McGowan (Shandong), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)

    Midfielders: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht) , Tom Rogic (Melbourne Victory), Adam Sarota (Utrecht), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion)

    Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Mathew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)

Manager Profile

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    Matt King/Getty Images

    He may lack international experience, but Australia manager Postecoglou is a highly respected manager in his home country.

    He left his job as Melbourne Victory coach when he was offered the Socceroos post in October, 2013.

    It was his previous work with the Brisbane Roar, however, that his reputation is built on.

    The 48-year-old led the Queensland team to two consecutive A-League titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, which is an impressive feat in itself, yet it was the manner in which the side played that revolutionised Australian domestic football.

    In a league where clubs are restricted by a salary cap, it is rare for any one team to establish itself as the clear benchmark, yet that is what Postecoglou was able to achieve with the Roar over a two-year period.

    Earning the nickname "Roarcelona" for the attacking tiki-taka style football it played, Brisbane showed the rest of the league that it was possible to produce attractive football that did not rely on pure physicality and a direct approach.

    Prior to his stint at the Roar, Postecoglou enjoyed success in the National Soccer League, the predecessor to the A-League, with South Melbourne, before taking over as manager of Australia's youth teams in 2000.

    He was lauded for bringing though young talent during his time in charge, but his failure to guide the U-20 side to the 2007 World Cup led to his dismissal, and some heavy criticism

    The manager who guided Australia through the qualification process, Holger Osieck, was dismissed after the team suffered consecutive 6-0 losses in friendlies to Brazil and France, and the Football Federation made the popular decision to appoint a local coach.

    Postecoglou backed up his promises to regenerate the national team by naming a young, inexperienced squad on Wednesday.

    Whether he can come up with a plan to counter the threats posed by Chile, the Netherlands and Spain in Brazil is another matter.




Star Man

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    It may be a young squad, but the go-to man in the Australian side is still a 34-year-old veteran who has done it all before.

    Tim Cahill is the Socceroos' all-time top scorer and has represented the side at the last two World Cup tournaments, scoring three finals goals in the process. 

    The New York Red Bulls player's aerial prowess has become legendary, and he remains the one player in the Australia side who can consistently be relied on to produce the goods when it matters most.


One to Watch

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    Matt King/Getty Images

    With his speed, superb close control and penchant for scoring spectacular goals, it is easy to see why Tommy Oar was once dubbed the "new Harry Kewell." 

    The flying winger/forward has not been as consistently brilliant as a young Kewell, but he does produce flashes of magic that make the comparison viable.

    The 22-year-old did not adapt immediately to European football when he moved to Utrecht from the Brisbane Roar in 2010, but with each passing season in the Eredivisie he has grown in confidence and grown as an attacking force. 

    In the absence of an injured Robbie Kruse, Oar will be the man tasked with creating chances for the Socceroos by dribbling past opponents down the flank and sending incisive balls into the box, or finishing off moves himself. 

    It's a big responsibility for a little guy, but Oar has the talent to make an impact in Brazil.


World Cup Record

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    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    Brazil 2014 is the fourth World Cup that Australia have qualified for.

    The first time the country made an appearance on football's biggest stage was in West Germany in 1974, which was followed by a 32-year absence.

    The Socceroos returned from the World Cup wilderness in 2006, and they have qualified for every tournament since.

    West Germany 1974

    Australia went home from their first World Cup after the group stage with one point but their heads held high. Placed in a daunting group with hosts West Germany, East Germany and Chile, they were expected to offer little resistance. Though they did end up losing to the two European sides, plucky performances in both games did the reputation of Australian football no harm, and a draw with the South Americans ensured they left the tournament with something to show for it.

    East Germany 2 - 0 Australia

    Australia 0 - 3 West Germany

    Australia 0 - 0 Chile


    Germany 2006

    The Socceroos far surpassed expectations in Germany by not only making it out of the group phase, but pushing eventual-champions Italy right to the limit in the Round of 16. Brazil were expected to dominate Group F, with Australia, Japan and Croatia battling it out for second place. In the end, that's the way it played out. Australia dramatically came from behind to beat Japan, before losing to Brazil, then earning the draw they required against Croatia in the final game to progress to the knockout stage. 

    Against Italy in the Round of 16, the Socceroos went toe-to-toe with their illustrious opponents, until a questionable penalty deep into injury time allowed Francesco Totti to win the game for the Azzurri.

    Australia 3 - 1 Japan

    Brazil 2 - 0 Australia

    Croatia 2 - 2 Australia

    Italy 1 - 0 Australia


    South Africa 2010 

    Though they mirrored their results from 2006, this time Australia would not progress to the next round. A heavy defeat to Germany in the opening game made the task difficult, and a draw against Ghana and win over Serbia were not enough to see them go through. 

    Germany 4 - 0 Australia

    Ghana 1 - 1 Australia

    Australia 2 - 1 Serbia

Group Fixtures

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    Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    Australia will dive into an intimidating Group B on June 13 with their clash against Chile. The Netherlands are next up, followed by Spain.


    Chile vs. Australia

    June 13, 2014

    Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba


    Australia vs. Netherlands

    June 18, 2014

    Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre


    Australia vs. Spain

    June 23, 2014

    Arena da Baixada, Curitiba