What Can Australia Achieve in the 2014 World Cup?
By Andre Smith: With the finalists for the 2014 World Cup confirmed, it is time to turn attention to Brazil and the draw. On December 6th, 2013, Australia will find out who they are facing in the group stages of the World Cup. They will be hoping to avoid a few of the favorites, but it is likely that they will face a difficult group. With the likely pots released by the media, we take a look at some of the possible groups that Australia could be drawn into:
Possible Group 1:
Brazil, England, France, Australia
Possible Group 2:
Switzerland, Bosnia, Algeria, Australia
Possible Group 3:
Germany, Greece, Nigeria, Australia
Looking at the above two groups, it is clear that luck will play a huge part in the type of group Australia is drawn into. They could end up in a group of death, with the likes of Brazil/Spain/Argentina coupled with England/Italy/Holland/Portugal and France. This would be a disaster for Australia, and would mean that even getting a point would be an almighty struggle.
On the other hand, a group with the likes of Algeria, Bosnia and Switzerland would be a dream scenario. This would give them a fighting chance of not only getting a win or two, but progressing to the knockout stages.
The third group is very much in the middle. It is not a ridiculously difficult group, but it is not a comfortable one either. Even in the third group, Australia would likely be fourth favorites to progress. This shows that it is going to be an uphill task for the coach and players to compete with quality opponents in Brazil. They will have to step up their game, get their tactics right, and hope for some luck to fall their way.
Australian fans are aware of the difficult draw that awaits them. Getting a difficult first seed and a difficult European nation is a likely possibility, and Australia are not equipped to get past either type of opponent. Fans have seen them lose most of their recent friendlies, and struggle to get past mediocre nations. A recent 1-0 win over Costa Rica brought some relief, but it is hardly the type of result that inspires confidence.
Recent matches have seen them draw with Korea, lose to Japan and China, get drubbed 6-0 by Brazil and France, and secure wins against Canada and Costa Rica. On the face of things, Australia are going to be huge underdogs at the World Cup. New coach Ange Postecoglou has his work cut out for him if he is going to turn this group of players into serious opponents for the best teams.
The World Cup draw is likely to pit Australia against two or three superior nations in their group. With this being the case, it is going to have to be a case of defense first. When New Zealand went to the World Cup four years ago, they were undefeated and emerged with three draws from their three games. They did not progress, but gave a respectable showing and earned many plaudits. Australia will have to employ similar tactics if they are going to succeed.
The Socceroos need to shore up their defense, and ensure that they are not leaking 5 or 6 goals every time they face a top nation. Frustrating better opponents is the best way to get an upset result. A tight back line and midfield is essential to success in Brazil for the Socceroos.
Friendlies for the first half of 2014 have not been scheduled yet, but Australia will have to be careful while choosing opponents. A mixture of strong and modest opponents is essential. The modest opponents will present a chance to win games and gain confidence, while the strong opponents will provide a preview for what Australia will face in the World Cup.
The best bet would be to arrange friendlies with a couple of European teams, a couple of African teams and one of the top nations (Holland, Argentina, Spain or Germany). This will provide a good balance, and give the Socceroos a chance to face opponents similar to those who will be in their groups. Playing opponents from Oceania and North/Central America is not a good idea, because those teams will definitely not be in the Socceroos group in 2014.
If the team is well coached by Ange Postecolgou and the draw is kind to them, the Socceroos could surprise a few, including their own fans, with their performances this summer in Brazil.
Image courtesy of: Ticketbis.com.au