Australia are better known for their success in rugby and cricket rather than football, but there’s a growing passion and belief that they can live up to their reputation for sporting excellence at the Qatar World Cup.
Although they aren’t going to be one of the two favourites to qualify for the knockout stages in Group D, the hopes of the country rely on the idea that they can produce a chaotic style of play that will be enough to overcome some of the deficiencies they have in terms of overall quality.
The Socceroos made the transition across from the OFC to the AFC in the 2000s, and while they would have expected a tougher test, it’s safe to say the level probably surprised them. Australia won the Asian Cup in 2015 as hosts but only managed to reach the quarterfinals in 2019.
The World Cup hasn’t been overly kind to them with their last Round of 16 appearance coming in 2006, and in 2018, they never got out of first gear. Ironically, they are drawn once again with Denmark and France, earning a point against the Danes, with a loss to Peru killing off their qualification dreams.
Alas, revenge is a dish best served cold, and after beating the UAE in the Asian play-off, Australia dug deep to grind out a penalty shootout win over Peru that ensured they will be on the plane to Qatar this winter.
If they can counteract their leaky defence by getting in behind with the young, promising attackers they have at their disposal, they could spring an upset in Group D.
Manager: Graham Arnold
Star player: Mat Ryan
One to watch: Ajdin Hrustic
World Cup finals appeared in: 1974, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018
Fixtures: Nov 22 - France v Australia; Nov 26 - Tunisia v Australia; Nov 30 - Australia v Denmark