Factfile on Australia, who are in World Cup Group D:
Best World Cup performance: Last 16 in 2006.
Other honours: Asian Cup winners 2015; Oceania Football Confederation Nations Cup winners 1980, 1996, 2000, 2004.
FIFA ranking: 38.
Main clubs: Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar, Melbourne City.
How they qualified: Came third behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in Asian qualifying Group B, then won intercontinental playoff against Peru 5-4 on penalties after game was deadlocked without a goal for 120 minutes.
Coach: Graham Arnold, 59, was appointed in 2018 after Dutchman Bert van Marwijk departed in the wake of the last World Cup. Arnold was previously an assistant at the Socceroos and worked alongside Guus Hiddink during the 2006 World Cup, where Australia made the last 16. His tactics and style of play have come under criticism and he narrowly avoided the sack after Australia failed to automatically qualify for Qatar.
Key player: Aaron Mooy is arguably Australia’s most important player, marshalling the midfield and bringing vast experience. Now with Scottish side Celtic, the 32-year-old played in the Premier League for Brighton and Huddersfield Town.
Expectations and key players according to Samantha Lewis, ABC Sport:
“Despite being one of the strongest teams in Asia, Australia’s men’s national team (nicknamed “the Socceroos”) have regularly struggled at World Cups. Only once in five finals appearances has the team made it out of the group stage, which came in 2006 thanks to their “Golden Generation” team that included the likes of Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell, and Mark Viduka. They’ve never made it beyond the round of 16. Australia’s qualifying campaign has been a rollercoaster, starting with the longest undefeated streak of any nation vying for World Cup finals, but stumbling towards the end with two tense intercontinental play-off wins against the United Arab Emirates and Peru. Fans have often been critical of head coach Graham Arnold’s pragmatic style of play, which at times feels less about winning and more about ‘not losing’, even while Australia is producing a number of players who contain more creativity, flair, and style than what Arnold’s approach often allows for.”
“There are a handful of players who have established themselves as key to Arnold’s squad including Celtic midfielder Aaron Mooy, veteran goalkeeper and skipper Mathew Ryan, St. Pauli co-captain Jackson Irvine, and Cadiz winger Awer Mabil. Some other emerging players to keep an eye on (selection depending) are teenager Garang Kuol, who has just signed with Newcastle United in the Premier League, and creative midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who won the 2022 Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt before moving to Italy. In the context of their own history, then, there is little expectation of the Socceroos making it out of a group containing current title-holders France, Denmark, and Tunisia. However, there are some pockets of faithful fans who believe they have the talent coming up through the ranks to cause a potential upset.”
November 22: France v Australia
November 26: Tunisia v Australia
November 30: Australia v Denmark
Goalkeepers: Mathew Ryan (FC Copenhagen/DEN), Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC/AUS), Danny Vukovic (Central Coast Mariners/AUS).
Defenders: Aziz Behich (Dundee Utd/SCO), Milos Degenek (Columbus Crew/USA), Thomas Deng (Aibirex Niigata/JPN), Joel King (Odense Boldklub/DEN), Nathaniel Atkinson (Hearts/SCO), Fran Karacic (Brescia/ITA), Harry Souttar (Stoke City/ENG), Kye Rowles (Hearts/SCO), Craig Goodwin (Adelaide United/AUS).
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy (Celtic/SCO), Jackson Irvine (St Pauli/GER), Ajdin Hrustic (Hellas Verona/ITA), Bailey Wright (Sunderland/ENG), Cameron Devlin (Hearts/SCO), Riley McGree (Middlesbrough/ENG), Keanu Baccus (St Mirren/SCO).
Forwards: Awer Mabil (Cadiz/ESP), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City), Martin Boyle (Hibernian/SCO), James Maclaren (Melbourne City), Jason Cummings (Central Coast Mariners), Mitchell Duke (Fagiano Okayama/JPN), Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners/AUS).
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