Australia enter this edition of the World Cup shorn of star quality and relying heavily on veteran Tim Cahill, alongside a mixture of A-League footballers and others scattered around Europe’s domestic leagues. They are complete outsiders in a tough group which offers few crumbs of comfort for the Socceroos in the nation’s attempts to further the popularity of the sport in their home country.

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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australiaParticipation in the latter stages of the tournament appears nothing but a distant dream, with a strong pool consisting of the Netherlands, Spain and Chile closing in on them menacingly. Former talismen of previous selections such as Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka, Brett Emerton and Archie Thompson have all been moved on and a new breed have emerged largely from the improving Australian league ranks. However, their inexperience could count heavily against them when performing on the biggest stage.

Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak is the on-field leader these days and his ability to motivate and inspire those around him will be hugely important. Meanwhile, former Everton hit-man Tim Cahill’s understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level will be helpful to their cause. The team’s collective spirit and battling qualities will provide their main hope of getting anything out of the World Cup this time around.

Coach Ange Postecoglou favours a 4-2-3-1 line-up, with two screening midfielders protecting the back-four at all times. The three in advance of them will look to break on the counter-attack at pace when winning possession, while dropping deeper to flood midfield in retreat.

Club Brugge keeper Maty Ryan is their last line of defence, while Franjic, Spiranovic, McGowan and Heracles left-back Jason Davidson are expected to make up the back-four. Two defensive midfielders will most likely be captain Jedinak and Milligan, with three of Matt McKay, Marc Bresciano, Massimo Luongo and Utrecht’s lightning left-wing Tommy Oar aiming to take up the advanced positions behind a target man who could well be Tim Cahill if fit, or one of the Australian’s bright prodigies such as Taggart, Leckie or Halloran.

Master tactician Guus Hiddink led the Aussies to the last-16 in 2006, but that was certainly a high watermark achieved in conjunction with a side littered by top-level experience throughout their 23-man squad. This latest class of young footballers are vibrant and promising, but unfortunately I fear they will find themselves completely out of their depth in Brazil.