FIFA Ranking: 38
Australia made their debut in 1974 and have appeared in five World Cups in total, including the last four. Their best performance was 2006, when they lost to Italy in the last 16 courtesy of a controversial late penalty. In the last three World Cups they have failed to progress from the group stage and registered only one win, against Serbia in 2010.
How they qualified:
Having romped through the second round of Asian qualifying, Australia were only able to finish third in their group in the third round. They beat the United Arab Emirates 2-1 to qualify for an intercontinental playoff against Peru. After a 0-0 draw, the Socceroos punched their ticket to Qatar 5-4 on penalties.
Since securing qualification in June, Australia have played two matches, both against New Zealand. After an unconvincing 1-0 win in Melbourne, an experimental side recorded a more impressive 2-0 victory in Auckland.
No great expectations for Australia side lacking X-factor
Australia is sometimes known as “The Lucky Country” and the Socceroos look like needing a major dose of good fortune if they are to get out of Group D on their fifth successive visit to the World Cup.
Rarely can an Australia team have headed to the global showpiece with lower expectations after an underwhelming qualifying campaign that went down to the wire and culminated in a penalty shootout victory over Peru.
That third-string goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne’s antics before the decisive kick in that shootout was probably the best remembered moment of the campaign tells its own tale.
“The Lucky Country” was coined by Donald Horne in his 1964 book of the same name, which criticised Australia for thriving because of its wealth of natural resources rather than through ambition or ingenuity.
The Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has exactly the opposite problem with proven international quality thin on the ground and barely any of his players getting regular starts in the world’s top leagues.
Australia are heading into their fifth consecutive World Cup, having gone out at the group stage in the last three editions after reaching the last 16 in 2006.
But gone are the days when the likes of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak could be called up from Premier League clubs and, outside Australia’s own A-League, the Scottish top flight is likely to contribute most players to Arnold’s squad.
Mitch Duke, who is expected to lead the line in Qatar, plays in the Japanese second division, while midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, arguably Australia’s most skillful player, is struggling for game time at Hellas Verona in Serie A.
Aaron Mooy, 32, has joined former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou at Celtic and Arnold will be hoping the ageing midfield fulcrum sees plenty of action before Qatar.
The timing of the finals means that the Australia-based players will at least have six rounds of the new A-League season to sharpen up before the squad departs for the Gulf.
Australian teams have always offered plenty of physicality and unstinting effort but that is unlikely to be enough in a tough group which also included world champions France, Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark and Tunisia.
In the search for the X-factor that Cahill and Kewell once brought to Australia’s cause, particularly in the last third of the pitch, Arnold has recently blooded youngsters Garang Kuol and Marco Tilio.
Goals will be at a premium in Qatar and even the conservative Arnold might be tempted to let youth have its head if his team’s struggles in front of goal continue.
Team announced :
Mat Ryan , Danny Vukovic , Andrew Redmayne , Harry Souttar (Stoke City), Milos Degenek , Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng , Fran Karacic , Nathaniel Atkinson , Aziz Behich , Kye Rowles , Joel King , Aaron Mooy , Jackson Irvine , Ajdin Hrustic , Cameron Devlin , Riley McGree , Keanu Baccus , Jamie Maclaren , Mitchell Duke , Jason Cummings , Garang Kuol , Awer Mabil , Mathew Leckie , Craig Goodwin and Martin Boyle.