A couple dozen Australian soccer players will vacation for a couple of weeks this June in Brazil. Here's what you need to know.
The modern Australian soccer era started on January 1, 2006, when they left the laughable Oceania Football Confederation after 39 years of domination for the more prestigious Asian Football Confederation. The AFC, though much more competitive than Oceania, offers four guaranteed World Cup spots. The OFC guarantees none.
With a young squad, Australia made the World Cup in 2006 for just the second time ever. This team was called the nation's "golden generation," the best squad ever assembled. Many of those players then went on to make the 2010 World Cup roster, and many of those players were sticking around through most of qualifying, when Australia played themselves into the 2014 World Cup.
Then last October, Australia hired Ange Postecoglou, who immediately inserted youth into the squad. Now, the Socceroos are in flux as they try to infuse the last of the golden generation with the next generation. Will it work?
It doesn't matter. Barring multiple miracles and/or tragedies, Australia are well and truly fucked. They were drawn into Group B along with 2010 World Cup champions Spain, 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands, and Chile, who are similarly stacked to the roof. But it's still a dope vacation.
Goalkeepers: Mark Birighitti, (Newcastle Jets), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge)
Defenders: Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow), Jason Davidson (SC Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng), Matthew Spiranovic, (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Bailey Wright (Preston North End)
Midfielders: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Oliver Bozanic (FC Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), Joshua Brilliante (Newcastle Jets), James Holland (Austria Wien), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (FC Utrecht), Tommy Rogic (Melbourne Victory), Adam Sarota (FC Utrecht), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion)
Forwards: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Duesseldorf), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)
FIFA World Ranking
Players to Watch
Tim Cahill, Attacking Midfielder/Forward
At 34, the New York Red Bulls star is getting up there in age, but he's still one of Australia's best players and biggest goal threat. If Australia are going to score in this group, it's probably going to come off a set piece. Though Cahill's only 5'10", he's freakily dominant in the air, so look for the quasi-diminutive player to be targeted on dead balls.
Mile Jedinak, Defensive Midfielder
For Australia to have any hope of returning to the World Cup knockout rounds as they did in 2010, they're going to need to shock everyone, and for them to do that, they're going to need to stop someone. Australian captain Mile Jedinak is their best hope of doing that.
Jedinak tore it up for Crystal Palace this year in the Premier League, leading England's top division in both tackles and interceptions amid a shock 11th-place finish for the Eagles. He's a 6-foot-2 pitbull marauding in front of his back line, and he's also active and technical enough to serve as an outlet in the middle of the pitch and start the counter. The worst thing about Jedinak is that there's only one of him, and so Australia will almost definitely be going home after three matches regardless of what he does.
Group B Fixtures
June 13, 6 p.m.: Chile vs. Australia at Arena Pantanal
June 18, noon: Australia vs. Netherlands at Estadio Beira-Rio
June 23, noon: Australia vs. Spain at Arena da Baixada
Complete Group B Previews
Top image by Jim Cooke; photos via Getty.