Three Hopes, One Fear: Australia at the 2018 World Cup


Australia make their return to Russia at this year’s 2018 World Cup. The Socceroos and their supporters will certainly have plenty of pep and cheer, but the question is: Will they have enough to make it out of the Group Stage?

Let’s take a look at their three hopes and one fear ahead of this year’s tournament.

Hope #1: That Massimo Luongo and Matthew Leckie make the next step as a midfield-forward partners.

For years Australia has been the side of Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak, the two having made a combined for 180 appearances for the Socceroos. But they are also a combined 71 years old meaning that their time with the National Team is likely at an end at this year’s World Cup.

Forward Matthew Leckie (Hertha Berlin) and midfielder Massimo Luongo (Queens Park Rangers) have begun to assert themselves as leaders of this side which should lead to a changing of the guard. It is a necessary step for Australia who would like to use a strong World Cup campaign to lead into a strong AFC Asian Cup and into the next round of qualifying. Luongo in particular needs to take control of this side. He already showed that he is capable of doing that, working as a key cog in the Asian Cup win in 2015. Now he needs to do it in Russia.

Hope #2: That Matthew Ryan will fare better in his second trip to Russia.

Ryan struggled mightily last year at the FIFA Confederations Cup, allowing five goals and three against Germany. The competition doesn’t get any easier this time around with matches against France, Peru, and Denmark. getting 38 starts for a Brighton and Hove Albion side that avoided relegation in the Premier League. Bert van Marjwik mightbe tempted to go to Brad Jones, given his success with Feyernoord. But Ryan should get the first crack.

Hope #3: That they can keep the Goal Differential down against France.

There is something to getting the toughest challenge out of the way first in a tournament like the World Cup. It may have to do with just seeing what your team’s limits are, how you do against the best that may give managers the chance to plan for more modest sides. But if things get out of hand in that first match, then the tournament might be over with before it starts.

Make no mistake about it: Australia will have their hands full against France. This is not a youthful, inexperienced France side. This is a ‘World Cup trophy or bust’ side. Given France’s array of attacking weapons (Griezmann, Mbappe, Dembele, Fekir, and Paul Pogba not playing in some weird Mourinho position) this side may put five, six goals on any team. Sadly the Socceroos get them first and given that France might be already qualified for the knockout stage by their third match they may take things easier on Denmark.

On the defensive front Australia can do two things to limit the score:  1.) Avoid giving up stupid fouls and unnecessary cards and 2.) force France to go wide. By avoiding set pieces and keeping them aerial they limit France from creating shots at close range. That’s the hope at least.

The Big Fear: That there isn’t another power struggle between the young players and the veterans.

Australia always seems to have issues transitioning from one generation to the next. It happened with former captain Lucas Neill right around the 2014 World Cup and it seems to be occurring again with former manager Ange Postecoglu resigning last year. If you look back across Australia’s recent history in the World Cup they do seem to bring more veterans in their twilight than younger players who might get more out of the tournament.

Look Australia is not going to win the World Cup and the odds that they advance out of the Group Stage depend upon a.) not getting killed by France and b.) getting a win against Denmark (overlooking Peru would also be unwise). So this tournament is really a chance to build for the next couple of cycles. Giving players like midfielder Daniel Arzani (19) of Melbourne City or forward Jamie MacClaren (24) would be good for the program.


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