Upstart, Veteran Australia Faces Long Group Odds at World Cup

Australia hired a new manager after securing its World Cup place and faces a challenging group in Russia, where expectations at low.
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Australia took the long road to the World Cup in Russia and experienced several bumps along the way.

The briefly became villains of international football for knocking out Syria in the playoffs, but the Aussies went back to being loveable underdogs once again, as soon as the groups were drawn.

Although not as daunting as when they were paired with Spain, Chile and the Netherlands four years ago in Brazil, the Socceroos, still led by veteran Tim Cahill, face the unenviable task of overcoming France, Denmark and a revitalized Peru in order to make the last 16 for only the second time in their history.

All this, with a new manager, who was just hired after qualification was sealed. Here's what you need to know about Australia entering the World Cup.

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How They Qualified

Australia find itself in a strange position ahead of the tournament on a managerial front. Current boss Bert Van Marwijk was successful in securing qualification for the World Cup–only not with Australia. Instead, he was responsible for guiding Group A's Saudi Arabia to Russia.

Ange Postecoglou was the one at the helm to guide the Socceroos to the tournament, and it wasn't in the most comfortable of circumstances.

Ranked 10th in Asia at the start of qualification - 100th in the FIFA rankings - Australia had a bye to the second round, where it comfortably won its group, with seven wins and a single 2-0 loss to Jordan across the eight games.

In the third round, Australia found the going tougher, finishing third in the group behind winner Japan and, strangely, current boss Van Marwijk and his Saudi Arabia side.

That meant Australia was forced to play a two-legged playoff tie with the other third-placed team, Syria, which it won 3-2 on aggregate after extra time in the second leg.

From there, it still weren't done, and it had to play another two-legged qualification decider, this time against Honduras, which the Australians won 3-1 to secure their place in Russia.

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Group Stages (June 14-28)


Australia starts its World Cup campaign with a trial by fire, facing Group C favorite France in their opener on June 16 in Kazan.

However, in facing the toughest opposition first, Australia has the advantage that should it leave Kazan with even a point, it will put itself in very good standing to push on and try to qualify out of the group.

Following France, the Socceroos travel to Samara to face Denmark (June 21), while their final match is against Peru in Sochi (June 26). 

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Route to the Final


Should Australia manage to out of Group C, it would likely be as a runner-up, in which case it would face a very tough run to the latter stages of the tournament.

For finishing second in the group, it would be paired with the winner of Group D, which could well be Lionel Messi's Argentina.

In the event of a miracle victory at that stage, Australia would then go up against the winner of the Group B winner/Group A runner-up clash.

Given one of Spain or Portugal is likely set to win Group B, it would likely mean Australia would be facing one of them in the quarterfinals, while in the semifinals Brazil, Germany or even England are all possibilities. The odds are quite long.

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​​Goalkeepers: Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk)

Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Blue Wings), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshopper Zurich).

Midfielders: Jackson Irvine (Hull City), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Mark Milligan (Al-Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic), Tim Cahill (Millwall)

Forwards: Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian)

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Predicted Lineup

(4-2-3-1): Mat Ryan; Aziz Behich, Trent Sainsbury, James Meredith, Milos Degenek; Aaron Mooy, Mile Jedinak; Robbie Kruse, Tom Rogic, Tim Cahill; Mathew Leckie

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Australia will have to perform very well to escape a tough Group C, but for all its difficulties, it is a surmountable challenge should the Socceroos perform at their very best.

On paper, Peru and Denmark are both stronger than Australia and will be fighting equally hard for a place in the last 16, but neither are unbeatable.

However, should Australia qualify from Group C as runners-up, then that is as far as the fairytale will likely manage. While they may have been drawn a group where they could achieve something laudable, their route to the final is unforgiving.

The Socceroos will be an interesting team to watch, and could do their country proud, but don't expect to see them get out of the group.