Australia have become a staple of the World Cup in the modern era, with the men in gold competing in the game’s biggest event for the fourth consecutive time when they head to Russia.
While the days of big-name players such as Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell may be over, the Socceroos still have an array of men on the books of European clubs.
That said, getting out of Group C will be a big ask for Australia given recent managerial changes and an unconvincing qualifying campaign.
Australia’s 2018 World Cup Group Matches
France vs Australia, 16 June 2018, 11am UK time
Denmark vs Australia, 21 June 2018, 1pm UK time
Australia vs Peru, 26 June 2018, 3pm UK time
Australia 2018 World Cup Squad
The Australian squad is a mix of experienced campaigners coming to the end of their careers, established players operating from Europe and relatively unknown A-League rising stars.
A combative midfield will give the Socceroos a chance and in Mat Ryan they have an excellent shot-stopping goalkeeper.
However, the Brighton man could be busy as the lack of a defensive leader, and the absence of a proven centre forward, will limit Australia.
Goalkeepers: Brad Jones, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic.
Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Matthew Jurman, Fran Karacic, James Meredith, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury.
Midfielders: Josh Brillante, Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic, James Troisi.
Forwards: Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Mathew Leckie, Andrew Nabbout, Dimitri Petratos, Nikita Rukavytsya, Jamie Maclaren.
With competition for places in goal fierce, former Borussia Dortmund custodian Mitch Langerak has been omitted from the travelling group.
Bournemouth full-back Brad Smith and Bristol City’s Bailey Wright will also miss out this summer.
Australia’s World Cup Manager: Bert van Marwijk
Long-serving Aussie head coach Ange Postecoglou got his nation to the World Cup but stepped down in the aftermath after issues with the administration, with Van Marwijk appointed in January as his successor.
This has left the Dutchman with a limited amount of time to work with his inherited squad.
Van Marwijk led the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010 and is fresh from spearheading Saudi Arabia’s qualification to this tournament.
As such, the 66-year-old took the job with some knowledge of the Australian players given that he faced them in the process of getting the Saudis to the competition
Expected Formation & Tactics
Australia will operate with a back four at the World Cup and it is likely that a 4-5-1 formation will be Van Marwijk’s choice to keep things tight against technically superior opposition.
As such, the Socceroos can expect to concede the majority of possession and try to hurt teams with pace in wide areas on the counter attack.
There is no lack of spirit or application in the Australian ranks but perceive missing calibre, especially at full-back, will be a worry for the supporters.
Australia’s Key Player – Aaron Mooy
Although Australia do not lack physicality, it will be down to Mooy and Tom Rogic to provide the finesse and create opportunities for the side.
Mooy is coming off the back of an excellent season with Huddersfield Town in the Premier League, where he showed a sublime range of passing and good dead-ball delivery ability.
When Australia win back possession, it will be up to the skilful midfielder to distribute the ball and unleash the likes of Matt Leckie on the wings.
Although he is not afraid to put a foot in also, the Huddersfield man has more quality on the ball than the majority of his team-mates.
Australia’s Wild Card – Jackson Irvine
While not guaranteed a starting XI place, Jackson Irvine has a number of attributes that could be of real use to Australia this summer.
The versatile midfielder never takes a backward step, is full of running and although not the most delicate of players, has the persistence to create attacking chances.
Australia will be keen to relieve pressure on their defence at times during the tournament and having someone like Irvine on the wing to chase down clearances and hold the ball up in offensive areas could offer that reprieve.
Australia – World Cup Prediction
Australia were drawn against Spain, Netherlands and Chile four years ago and not many people gave them a chance.
While they lost all three games, the Socceroos were competitive in each of the encounters and did themselves proud.
It will take a big effort from Australia to stand a chance of getting out of Group C in 2018 and the likelihood is that the same outcome as four years ago will play out again – the men in green and gold apply themselves well, but are outclassed.