In all honesty, the best that any Aussie soccer fans travelling to the World Cup can hope for is a great holiday. The Socceroos will have their work cut out to get anywhere near the knock-out stages, let alone the big prize itself. In truth, the Australian game is undergoing a transitional period and Brazil 2014 could be a good chance to give some big tournament experience to players looking to make their mark in four years time.
If you check out liveworldcupodds.com you will see that Australia has been given little hope by the bookies. And a quick glance at Group B gives you a good idea why. If Australia hope to repeat their success of 2006 and reach beyond the group stage, they will need to finish in the top two of a group including current world champions Spain, 2010 World Cup finalists Holland and one of South America’s most impressive outfits at the moment, Chile. It seems to be somewhat of an impossible task. However, there are few expectations of the Socceroos and with Aussie sport on a high following the Ashes whitewash of England and Rugby League World Cup glory, Australian sporting appetite may have been satiated. The pressure will be off for Ange Postegocelu’s side.
In truth, Brazil 2014 could be a good opportunity for fearless younger players to gain some important experience. Heroes of the past such as Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton are unlikely to feature this time round. Although tireless midfielder Tim Cahill is still very much integral to the national side, there are relatively few players who have played regularly in top European leagues. Long-time captain Lucas Neill will probably make the cut, but veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwartzer has played precious little first team football of late and is far from guaranteed his place in Postegocelu’s side.
Instead, the stage is set for a number of young players to make their mark on the global stage. Keep an eye out for 25-year-old forward Robbie Kruse, who graduated from the domestic A-League and is now plying his trade in the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen. 21-year-old attacking midfielder Tom Rogic has yet to make a real impact at Celtic but is nonetheless a rising star. Postegocelu will also be keen to throw in right-sided player Ivan Franjic who plays for Brisbane Roar but is considered an excellent prospect and will be keen to put himself in the shop window in Brazil.
In short, there is plenty of opportunity for a new generation of Socceroos to make their mark. And although Postegocelu has only inherited the coaching mantle since Australia qualified for the World Cup, he would seem to be in an ideal position to mould a promising new national team. He has previously coached Australia’s under-17 and under-20 teams with some success and will be keen to further oversee their development at senior level.
Australia will open their World Cup campaign against Chile on 13 June. Realistically, this is a game that they will have to win if they are to have any chance of qualifying from what has been dubbed by many as the ‘group of death.’ If they can record a victory against the South Americans and put three points on the board, then it will instantly mean Postegocelu’s campaign is regarded as a success. It could also lay the platform for a more ambitious campaign in four years time.