(Over the next month or so, we’re going to be doing previews for all 32 teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Yes, all 32 teams. We’ll make you laugh, cry, get mad and perhaps question why you read us in the first place. We hope you enjoy the product nonetheless)
Australia don’t have a lush World Cup history, having only qualified four times in their history. They’ve had previous success in Confederations cups, with a third place showing in 2001 and finishing runners up in 1997. They were dominant during their tenure in the Oceanic Football Confederations but the move to the Asian Football Confederation in 2005 sparked Australia’s greatest World Cup moment to date and the dubbing of their golden generation. Their penalty shootout victory vs. Uruguay in the playoff marked at that point their first qualification to the World Cup since 1974. The scene was remarkable in Sydney, with nearly 83,000 people holding with bated breath as the fate of their home nation was contingent on a game of luck and nerve.
Australia’s run in the 06 World Cup ended with controversy, with Australia going out on a very suspect (and I’m being kind when I say that) penalty against Italy, but the nation did itself a great justice with their near run into the last 8 of the tournament. It was the landmark moment in Australia’s history and perhaps their greatest moment. In recent years Australia have failed to reach the same heights as they did in 2006 and have gone to a squad very green with an eye towards the future.
Goalkeepers Mathew Ryan (Club Bruges), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mark Birighitti (Newcastle Jets)
Defenders – Curtis Good (Dundee United), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Bailey Wright (Preston North End), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors)
Midfielders Joshua Brillante (Newcastle Jets), Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa, Qatar), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion), Adam Sarota (Utrecht), Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar), James Troisi (Atalanta), Massimo Luongo (Swindon)
Forwards Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt 1899), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), Tomas Rogic (Celtic), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)
There’s only four players who played in the 2006 World Cup who will be boarding the trip to Brazil. The main guy from the four is Everton legend Tim Cahill, a man who’s renowned still for his heading prowess. He’s one of the old guards, a remnant of Australia’s golden generation, alongside Luke Wilkshire, Mark Bresciano and Josh Kennedy. Cahill was one of the Premier League’s most serial headers, someone who makes that part of football his own artistry.
I haven’t done a running count of how many goals from that video were from headers, but I’m sure it’s high. Sadly, the injury bug has caught Australia (who hasn’t been caught with the injury bug for the damn tournament?). Arguably their best player in Robbie Kruse was sadly lost to an ACL injury that has forced him to miss the trip to Brazil. For a team as small as Australia, an injury like this is just brutal though I guess the saving grace for them is how long they’ve known that they’ll be without Kruse.
The roster selection is an avenue into the way their manager Ange Postecoglou is thinking going forward. Many of these players have played at one point in the A-league, Australia’s football league and a number of them currently play in Australia. Their previous managers have had dismissive views on Australia’s league, particularly Pim Verbeek. Postecoglou in contrast sees the A-League as a legitimate pipeline for Australia’s future, hoping to remake the glory that occurred in 2006 and have it last longer. In addition, there’s several players who play in lower leagues across Europe, top flight leagues in Scotland and Italy and a couple play in the Dutch Eredivisie in Sarota and Davidson, while their most celebrated player is currently applying his trade in the MLS. It’s as perfect a mix for Australia as a manager could conjure up, with homegrown talent staying in Australia while others are playing in legitimate leagues across Europe and North America.
The chances for Australia to make it past the group stage in Brazil are pretty slim, but the experience will be vital for the future of Australia’s national team. Their match vs. Ecuador was perhaps a preview of what to expect from Australia as nearly everyone that participated in that match for Australia are in the provisional squad. They were very compelling in that 4-3 defeat for how they simultaneously managed to get 3-0 up vs Ecuador and lose the match 4-3. They were impressive in their 1-0 victory vs. Costa Rica, back when Robbie Kruse was healthy and fit for Postecoglou. Australia will go to Brazil a heavy underdog with an eye towards 2018 and possibly 2022 (wherever that damn tournament is going to be played), hoping that the lumps taken in Brazil are merely a precursor to reliving and perhaps surpassing the glory days that made the socceroos the little engine that could in 2006.