After exiting from the last World Cup in Brazil with three defeats from their three group games, Australia will be looking to progress to the second round for only the second time in World Cup history. They face competition from Peru and Denmark for the second qualifying spot in Group C, behind favourites France.
Bert van Marwijk
Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa)
Mile Jedinak's hat-trick in the second-leg of their play-off clash with Honduras booked Australia's place at Russia 2018 as they advanced 3-1 on aggregate after a goalless first leg.
Australia had gone the hard way through qualifying, after paying the price for drawing too many games when they finished third in the Asian third round Group B, behind second-place Saudi Arabia on goal difference only.
That was despite losing just one game - one less than group winners Japan, whom it was who beat the Aussies in the penultimate round of fixtures, before their own defeat to Saudi Arabia pushed Australia into the play-offs. It was a far cry from Australia's dominant form in the second round of qualifying, where they had won seven of their eight group games to storm into the third round.
In the first play-offs, in the Asian section, Syria took Australia to extra time but Tim Cahill's winner - his second of the game - earned a 2-1 win in Sydney for the hosts and a 3-2 aggregate success, before they went on to beat Honduras.
This is Australia's fourth consecutive appearance in the World Cup finals, having only appeared once in the previous 17 editions. Having reached the last-16 in 2006, however, they have failed to advance from the group stage in the last two tournaments.
Last time out, they lost all three matches after being handed one of the toughest draws in the tournament – finishing fourth in a ‘group of death' that also saw defending champions Spain eliminated as the Netherlands and Chile advanced.
Bert van Marwijk was appointed as Australia manager in January to replace Ange Postecoglou – the man who guided the Socceroos to the World Cup. Van Marwijk previously led the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup Final and then was in charge as Saudi Arabia qualified for this very tournament – almost knocking Australia out in the process. Van Marwijk’s biggest selection decision was to take veteran forward Tim Cahill to the World Cup, having only used the Millwall forward for 30 minutes across his first two friendlies.
Among those to miss out, however, were defender Bailey Wright, goalkeeper Mitchell Langarak, and experienced midfielder James Troisi. Jamie Maclaren got a reprieve after initially being cut from the Australian longlist, while Melbourne City teenager Daniel Arzani is in the squad despite only making his international debut this month.
If selected, and despite his age, Tim Cahill brings phenomenal international experience to Australia’s team and a national-record 50 goals – including five across the last three World Cups. Captain Mile Jedinak also brings a wealth of international experience, and scored a hat-trick against Honduras to book Australia’s World Cup place, while of their other English-based players Aaron Mooy enjoyed a decent first year in the Premier League as he helped Huddersfield Town avoid relegation.
D W L D W
Australia beat Syria after extra time thanks to Tim Cahill’s double and followed up another first-leg draw with a 3-1 win against Honduras – thanks to Mile Jedinak’s hat-trick – to book their place in the World Cup finals. After changing managers in the winter, however, Bert van Marwijk’s reign got off to a bad start with a 4-1 friendly defeat to Norway. They fixed their defensive issues and drew 0-0 with Colombia four days later, however and then kicked June off with a 4-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic – Mathew Leckie grabbing two of the goals.
|1||Mathew Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion)||26||43 caps||0 goals|
|12||Brad Jones (Feyenoord)||36||5 caps||0 goals|
|18||Danny Vukovic (Gent)||33||1 cap||0 goals|
|2||Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos)||24||18 caps||0 goals|
|3||James Meredith (Millwall)||30||2 caps||0 goals|
|6||Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Bluewings)||28||4 caps||0 goals|
|16||Aziz Behich (Bursaspor)||27||22 caps||2 goals|
|19||Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers)||25||7 caps||0 goals|
|20||Trent Sainsbury (Grasshopper)||26||34 caps||3 goals|
|5||Mark Milligan (Al Ahli)||32||70 caps||6 goals|
|8||Massimo Luongo (QPR)||25||35 caps||5 goals|
|13||Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)||27||33 caps||5 goals|
|15||Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa)||33||75 caps||18 goals|
|17||Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City)||19||1 cap||0 goals|
|21||Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets)||25||2 caps||0 goals|
|22||Jackson Irvine (Hull City)||25||18 caps||2 goals|
|23||Tom Rogic (Celtic)||25||36 caps||7 goals|
|4||Tim Cahill (Millwall)||38||105 caps||50 goals|
|7||Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin)||27||52 caps||8 goals|
|9||Tomi Juric (Luzern)||26||34 caps||8 goals|
|10||Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum)||29||63 caps||5 goals|
|11||Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds)||25||3 caps||1 goal|
|14||Jamie Maclaren (SV Darmstadt 98)||24||6 caps||0 goals|
Australia had to go the long way to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, progressing only thanks to home wins in their play-offs against first Syria and then Honduras. They have also departed Russia unsuccessful already in the past 12 months, when they drew two matches and lost to Germany in last summer’s Confederations Cup.
It led to a managerial change, but Bert van Marwijk – whose Saudi Arabia side qualified ahead of Australia to consign the Socceroos to those play-offs – suffered a poor first game in charge when his side were thrashed by Norway in a friendly.
That does not bode well for the Socceroos, especially with France and Denmark expected to beat them in the group stages in Russia, and Peru keen to avoid an early exit too.
Peru, like Australia, squeaked through the play-offs – failing to break down New Zealand in the away leg of their match before winning at home – but that should give the Socceroos some confidence they can avoid last place and another winless tournament at least.
Australia have regularly proved their superiority over New Zealand – prompting their switch to Asian competition, in fact – and they will hope to at least avoid defeat to the South American team.
Australia are as low as 1/5 to fail to advance beyond the group stage – the third consecutive time that will have happened – but a ‘draw no bet’ selection on Australia to beat Peru is 7/5 with Betfair and could prove profitable as their big tournament players look to sign off from the tournament with a morale-boosting win.
Australia have failed to advance beyond the group stage in either of their last two World Cup appearances, and will find it difficult again in Russia with France and Denmark favourites to progress in Group C.
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Complete list of 32 teams participating in World Cup 2018 and their Group Predictions