5 Australia players to watch at the World Cup
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Australia will be returning for its third consecutive World Cup with its toughest assignment to date - Group B matches against defending champion Spain, 2010 finalist Netherlands and Chile.
Despite having a squad containing some new, inexperienced players, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is undaunted by the task facing him.
''If there is an opportunity there for us to create some headlines and shock the world, we'll take it,'' Postecoglou said.
Here are five players to watch:
At 34 and playing in his third World Cup, midfielder Tim Cahill will be the heart of the team in Brazil. Often described as the Socceroos' talisman, he had a knack of scoring at crucial moments in big games, including in the comeback win over Japan in 2006 - which was Australia's first game at a World Cup in 32 years.
Cahill is the all-time leading scorer for the Socceroos with 32 goals, two of his last three coming in a friendly against Ecuador in London in March. Cahill also scored Australia's only goal in a friendly against South Africa this week, a 1-1 draw at Sydney.
In a team mostly lacking in star power, 29-year-old midfielder and newly-named captain Mile Jedinak holds the distinction of being one of the Socceroos only current players involved regularly in the Premier League. The Crystal Palace captain has made 43 appearances for Australia. When the team left for South Africa, Jedinak was recovering from a groin strain. ''It's coming along quite well,'' he said. ''With a gradual build-up over the next few days and once we're in Brazil, hopefully in the not too distant future I will join up with the team.''
Tommy Oar has moved quickly up the football ranks, joining the A-League's Brisbane Roar at the start of the 2008-09 season and being named the best young player in the country the following year.
The 22-year-old winger first played for Australia against Indonesia in 2010 but didn't make it to the World Cup in South Africa. He did score against Japan in a 1-1 draw in last year's qualifiers, however, keeping Australia on course for the World Cup.
Playing for FC Utrecht in the Netherlands gives Oar the advantage of seeing many of the Dutch players he'll face in the first round.
The 34-year-old Mark Bresciano will be in his third World Cup squad for Australia, but nearly didn't make it due to a suspension. In August 2012, Bresciano joined Qatar club Al-Gharafa on a three-year contract, but was said to have broken a contract with Al-Nasr in order to finalize the transfer. His four-month suspension and fine was rescinded and the Court of Arbitration for Sport later dismissed an appeal. Bresciano, who played the first of his 73 internationals for Australia in 2001, didn't play in the South Africa friendly due to a mild back problem.
Mat Ryan appears to be Postecoglou's first choice to fill the big and well-worn shoes of Mark Schwarzer, who turned down a chance to play at a third World Cup when he retired from international football in November. Ryan was the starter in Australia's last international friendly on home soil.
The 22-year-old Ryan moved from the A-League last year to Club Brugge in Belgium, where he has improved under the tutelage of Michel Preud'homme.
''I don't think you'd be human if you didn't think about the types of names you're coming up against,'' Ryan says of the World Cup. ''In saying that, there's no time to be in awe of them.''