No one is counting on the Australians to make it to the World Cup championship matches in a month, not even the most loyal Australian fan. In fact, most fans do not hold out hope that Australia will even make it out of its group. However, to rule out the Aussies would be premature, even with the team’s limited squad and internal and external struggles. Fans are hoping to see the team get to the final 16 as it did in 2006.
The Problems with Australia
There are several problems with the Australian squad. First, the squad itself has been enmeshed in turmoil from the moment it got to Russia, primarily because the coach who brought them through the qualifying rounds and to Russia, Postecoglu, resigned. The coach who took his place, Van Marwijk, doesn’t appear to have found his footing yet.
It remains to be seen whether the new coach can learn the players and the strategy quickly enough to make a difference. Van Marwijk has some experience winning in professional tournament play and worked hard to take his native country, the Netherlands, on a remarkable run in 2010. He is known as a coach who is unflappable under pressure, which will be a benefit to a young, untried team.
In addition, there is the extreme lack of expertise among the Australian team. Fully one-quarter of the team has not played a second of tournament football for the national team. The lack of experience may cost Australia in the long run when the players must compete against more seasoned teams. There are a couple of good players. But, that’s just it, the players are good … not great.
Juric and Cahill (with Cahill being the better of the two) are the leaders of the team. The team has struggled to find someone to take over the position at right back. There also isn’t a good partner to help out Sainsbury, who is the national team’s best defender.
However, the Aussie team does have some positive points to consider. First, one of the most exciting young players in Australia, Arzani, is on the team and is quite good at chasing down defenders. Although he has not yet been tested in international match play, he has some promise. In addition, there are good players at goal and midfield, with competition there for some positions that will allow the new coach to change players in and out. And, with all the fresh legs on the Aussie team, they can only benefit from that during strenuous games.
The Australians’ Matches in the World Cup
After the problems with the coach and the youth on the team, the next hurdle to jump over is the schedule the team will be facing. In Group C, Australia finds itself in a group with three other teams ranked in the Top 20 internationally. France proved to be an overwhelming match for the Australians, and Denmark or Peru could be just as big a challenge for the Aussies.
Peru’s team, which was upset in its first match, is liable to be angry and spoiling for a fight for its spot in the knockout round. Peru is ranked 11th in the world and Denmark is 12th — neither of which bodes especially well for Australia. The Aussies are thought to have plenty of fire and staying power, but, in most cases, speed and staying power do not in and of themselves win matches. While the Aussies are hoping for the best, and surprises could occur, putting all the gambling eggs in one basket for the Australian team is not a smart move.