Today, with Australia, we continue, in reverse alphabetical order, to provide the profiles of the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Socceroos are participating in their sixth World Cup and their best showing was in 2006 when they made it out of the Group Stage. After a nearly three-year qualifying campaign and two playoffs, the Australians are simply glad to have made the 2022 World Cup. They are a weak side with few players in competitive first-division soccer and have been placed with two very strong group mates in France and Denmark. Tunisia, their third group mate is ranked 30th in the world by FIFA to the Aussie’s 38th slot. The team has no illusions about the task before them but they will be game to give it their best. The Socceroos home kit is a tan-yellow shirt with green (teal) highlights, green (teal) shorts, and tan-yellow socks. Their away kit is completely dark blue with yellow/green highlights.
Australia is a continent and a country, the latter encompassing the island of Tasmania and many smaller islands for a cumulative 2.970M square miles. It is the world’s sixth-largest country by area with the least fertile soil. Its size gives it many landscapes and climates from deserts, to rainforests, to mountain ranges. Aboriginal Australians arrived from Asia about 65,000 years ago and Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon was the first European to reach the continent in 1606.
British explorer James Cook mapped and claimed the eastern coast of Australia for Great Britain and by 1788 the New South Wales penal colony established the first of the UK’s colonies which would last until Australian independence in 1901. Today the country is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy of 26M people who speak English, are 44% Christian, have a GDP of $1.6T (13th largest in the world), an HDI score of 0.951 (very high), and rank among the highest in the world for quality of life.
Australia has given us: Germaine Greer, Joan Sutherland, Nellie Melba, Patrick White, Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Ken Rosewall, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Keith Urban, Geoffrey Rush, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Chris Hemsworth, Elle Macpherson, Margot Robbie, Miranda Kerr, Heath Ledger, Iggy Azalea, Isla Fisher, Olivia Newton-John, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, Eric Bana, the Outback, walkabouts, kangaroos, and the Australian Open.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers— Mat Ryan (Copenhagen), Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC), and Mitchell Langerak (Nagoya Grampus); Defenders— Milos Degenek (Columbus Crew), Fran Karacic (Brescia), Nathanial Atkinson (Hearts), Bailey Wright (Sunderland), Aziz Behich (Dundee United), Trent Sainsbury (Al-Wakrah), Ryan Strain (St Mirren), Harrison Delbridge (Incheon United), Joel King (OB), and Thomas Deng (Albirex Niigata); Midfielders— Denis Genreau (Toulouse), Ajdin Hrustic (Verona), Aaron Mooy (Celtic), Riley McGree (Middlesbrough), Jackson Irvine (St. Pauli), Connor Metcalfe (St. Pauli), Keanu Baccus (St Mirren), Cameron Devlin (Hearts), and Tyrese Francois (Gorica); Strikers—Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City), Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City), Awer Mabil (Cadiz), Mitchell Duke (Fagiano Okayama), Marco Tilio (Melbourne City), Jason Cummings (Central Coast Mariners), Garang Kuol (Central Coast Mariners), and Adam Taggart (Cerezo Osaka).
Path to Qatar
Australia were seeded into Group B of AFC Qualifiers and topped it with a perfect eight wins out of eight, and an +26-goal differential, ahead of Kuwait, Jordan, Nepal, and Chinese Taipei. In the third round of qualifiers, they came in third to Saudi Arabia and Japan in that order and thus went into the AFC playoffs against the UAE who they beat 2-1. They thus qualified for the Inter-confederation playoffs against the team from CONMEBOL and they defeated Peru 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw.
Coach Graham Arnold has Australia playing a 4-2-3-1 as a means of contending with better opponents and in Qatar, nearly all will be. Four things give the Aussies hope—first, they spent 1,008 days and 20 matches reaching the 2022 World Cup, so for a team that rarely gets much competition they had more this time around (also they have only lost two of their last eleven dating to November 2021); second, only four of those 20 qualifiers was at home because of the pandemic so playing away will have been the norm come the cup; third, they have progressed without the services of some key players due to injuries and the AWOL Tom Rogic, so if the injured and missing return the squad will be strengthened just in time; fourth, they were group mates of France and Denmark in 2018 and are thus at least familiar with the two European group favorites.
The team has few players of any stature. The absent Tom Rogic is the team’s best and penalty shootout hero Andrew Redmayne is currently the most popular. Captain Mathew Leckie and two naturalized players Scotsman Martin Boyle, and Frenchman Denis Genreau, are the team’s current stars.
Group and Tourney Prospects
The Aussies are simply happy to have made the party, but they are aware that with the French and Danes in their group their chances are slim at best. Expect them to put up a good fight as they go down and out at the earliest stage.
Photo: Mathew Leckie, Shutterstock ID 536464720 – by: mooinblack