Australia’s path to World Cup 2018 qualification was an enormous and torturous journey, consisting of 22 games, the most any nation has ever played in a qualifying campaign. Over the course of facing their 11 different opponents, the team physically travelled over 250,000 kilometres. The campaign took such a toll on coach Ange Postecoglou that he resigned in November, and has been replaced by Bert van Marwijk, who guided the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final.
Although Australia only lost twice in their initial qualifying games, they missed automatic qualification on goal difference to Saudi Arabia, with too many draws being the reason. They then had to play four play-off games, before securing a ticket to Russia this summer with a 3-1 win against Honduras in front of 80,000 home fans in Sydney. Their best-ever World Cup performance was a second-round exit in 2006, and they definitely have a chance of making it out of the group this time around. Although probably no match for France, if they can shore up their defence and their strikers can find their shooting boots, Australia have a serious chance of taking points against Peru and Denmark.
- Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town) – At the age of 27, Mooy is in the prime of his career, and has had an impressive season in the Premier League with Huddersfield Town. The midfielder seems to be the focal point of the Australian national team, controlling the play and orchestrating the attacks. Australia created an immense amount of chances during their qualifying games, yet lacked the finishing touch to convert those chances into important goals. For them to really get the most out of Mooy’s creative playmaking talents, van Marwijk needs to find a consistent striker.
- Tim Cahill (Melbourne City) – Cahill cast some doubt over his potential participation in the World Cup in Russia, stating that he needs more game time at club Melbourne City if he is to be confident enough that he will be able to perform. If Cahill does travel, it will be his fourth consecutive World Cup finals. Cahill, now 38, would not have the ability to feature heavily in the competition in terms of minutes played, however he still maintains his technical skills, and could be the ace up the sleeve if Australia need a crucial goal to separate a game. His contributions to the side off the pitch can also not be underestimated, as with his wealth of experience, he can be an important leader to the younger generation.
Bert van Marwijk – Van Marwijk comes in to replace Ange Postecoglou, who resigned in November. Having coached Saudi Arabia from 2015 to 2017, and securing qualification to their first World Cup finals since 2006, van Marwijk brings a vast amount of experience with him. He will need to rejuvenate his team after a long and arduous qualification campaign, but his main aim should be to find a consistent finisher between now and the summer.