Terry Duffelen
Tue 11 May 2010

32 For 2010: Australia

The Socceroos have moved. Not literally of course but on an administrative level. Previously, Football Federation Australia were members of the Oceania confederation which only has half a qualification spot for the World Cup Finals. This manifests itself as a play-off against a low-ranked team in another confederation (Asia this time, but in the past it has been South America). This route to the tournament has proved problematic for Australia (most notably under Terry Venables for France 98) and was one of the reasons why they lobbied to be included into the Asian Confederation which has more competitive nations and more qualification spots.

With the domestic league still in its infancy, many Australians play overseas in Europe. A number of them are household names. Despite not being the number one sport in the country, there are a large number of experienced international footballers with a growing supporter base who have become galvanised by the team's exploits in 2006 which took them to the Second Round only to be controversially knocked out by the wily Italians.

Top players ahead of the trip to South Africa are Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill of Everton and of course Harry Kewell, now at Galatasaray. However, some doubts remain as to the fitness of the former Leeds United player which would be a significant blow for the team's aspirations. Backing up the headliners are a rump of professionals from European leagues such as David Carney (FC Twente), Mark Bresciano (Palermo), Brett Emerson and Vince Grella from Blackburn Rovers and Luke Wilkshire of Dynamo Moscow. Jason Culina, played for PSV Eindhoven until he made a big money move to A-League side Gold Coast United last season. If he features in South Africa, he may be one of the few home based players to feature. Mark Viduka has effectively retired.

Conscious that the top players in the squad are getting on a bit, a squad of predominantly younger A-League players were selected for the Asian Cup qualifying campaign in the hope that this will yield some senior Socceroos for qualification to Brazil in 2014.

The coach Pim Verbeek was assistant to Guus Hiddink in 2006. The Dutchman is not the most popular figure and has been criticised for using negative tactics (a criticism he refutes). He will be stepping down after the World Cup.

Before that, the Aussies must overcome a tough group if they are to fulfill their dream of meeting England in the Second Round. Australia have been drawn with Germany, Ghana and Serbia. To be frank, progression is going to be a tall order. However, that famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) competitive streak and sporting appetite may see them through.

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