Fiji Times Logo

Fiji Time: 4:26 AM on Tuesday 29 July

/ Front page / Sport

Australian worst team in world cup

By Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Update: 6:23PM The bookmakers regard Australias World Cup possibilities as something worse than a snowballs survival chances in hell.

As do the world rankings, which place Australia last of the World Cup qualifiers in 59th spot (between Mali and Burkina Faso).

And judging by the social media response to the Socceroos stuttering 1-1 draw against a less-than-fearsome South Africa on Monday night, large numbers of the Australian public share that pessimistic view.

Coach Ange Postecoglou was missing three key players in injured skipper Mile Jedinak, playmaker Mark Bresciano and first-choice centre half Matthew Spiranovic, so some leeway might be given.

But only some, given the nature of the occasion, the strength of the opposition and the expectation of a rather more upbeat performance this close to a World Cup.

Postecoglou, of course, cares little - at least on the outside - for public opinion. He is very much his own man, has secured the job on his terms and is determined to pick his team and play his own way.

He is also anxious to ensure that the squad is cherry ripe for its opening World Cup match on June 13 in Cuiaba against Chile and isnt concerned about some patchy results during the preparation phase as he mixes and matches to find the right blend of personnel to suit the high pressing, high energy style he wants to employ.

Hence his post match admission that fatigue had overcome many of his players after only 25 minutes of the match on the lumpy, bumpy ANZ Stadium surface, due largely to the fact they had been trained hard during their camp to have them peaking when it mattered - in Brazil, not in Sydneys western suburbs.

A number of those who started - such as Melbourne Victorys Mark Milligan and James Troisi - had not played a game since the end of April, when their A-League seasons finished. In racing parlance they will be better for the run.

Whether Postecoglou and his fitness and management are capable of giving the Socceroos a Bart Cummings-style preparation to have them fit and healthy, injury free and ready to peak on the right day is not in doubt. Australian sports scientists and medical practitioners have proved themselves world leaders in this regard.

But the real question is whether they have the ability to actually compete at the level they will be required to.

On the evidence of the qualifiers, when a vastly different Australian squad fell over the line to make it to Brazil, and what we have seen in the three matches for which Postecoglou has been in charge with a new look squad, you would think not.

Postecoglou made the point on Monday that his side was inexperienced, and that the only way they would gain the necessary knowhow was to play at international level.

The feeling persists that perhaps even in the coachs mind this might be a test that is coming a little too early in their transformation, although he would never suggest anything like that. The World Cup is a massive prize, the ultimate in global sport, and the eyes of the planet will be upon the Socceroos.

For all the talk that the Asian Cup in six months time is the real target, all those involved in the national team camp know that this is where they want to really excel and defy the doomsayers who are branding them the worst team in the competition.

The bookies might not rate Australia that highly, but they take an even dimmer view of a handful of the Socceroos rivals, who are all ranked much higher in the world rankings.

While Sportsbet have priced up Postecoglous squad at 500-1, they have four teams at even longer odds: Iran (1500-1) Algeria (2000-1), Costa Rica (2000-1) and Honduras (3,000-1).

Given what we have seen in the three matches Australia has played under their new coach (a 1-0 win in Sydney against an under-strength Costa Rica, a bizarre 4-3 defeat to Ecuador in London and the laboured draw with the South Africans) it is fair to ask, whether Australia is in the fact the worst team in the tournament.

Iran, unlike Australia, finished top of its final qualifying group in a closely fought Asian section, emerging with 16 points following its last match win over South Korea. The group was tougher than Australias final qualifying section in which only Japan, the runaway group winners, were regarded as one of Asias top sides.

The Algerians, meanwhile, were once one of Africas football powers they even beat West Germany in the 1982 World Cup in Spain but had endured a fallow period before qualifying for the 2010 tournament in South Africa, where they failed to score in three games against England, USA and Slovenia, but did manage to secure a point.

They won their group against Mali, Benin and Rwanda, but then endured a nervous play-off qualifier, losing 3-2 in Burkina Faso before edging their rivals out on goal difference after winning 1-0 at home. And with a world ranking of 25, they are 34 places above the Socceroos.

An under-strength Costa Rica may have lost to the Socceroos, but it qualified comfortably for Brazil as runner-up to the USA in the Central American section.

The Hondurans are appearing at their second World Cup in succession, having lost to both Spain and Chile in the group phase last time. But new coach Luis Fernando Suarez has transformed the team and brought in a number of younger, more promising players.

Honduras reached the quarter-finals of the London Olympic football tournament in 2012 and managed to qualify for Brazil ahead of Mexico, finishing third behind the United States and Costa Rica in the final qualifying section in Central America. They got their by winning in the Azteca for the first time ever against the Mexicans, a formidable achievement.

Honduras will field a few players familiar to watchers of mid-table and struggling Premier League sides. Stokes Wilson Palacios (ex Wigan and Tottenham) is one of their better known names, as is Hull defender Maynor Figueroa. Wigan duo Roger Espinoza and Juan Carlos Garcia have been named in the squad, as has Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre, who was the Scottish Footballer of the Year in 2011.

In short, all these teams look better credentialled than the Socceroos.


Fiji Times Front Page Thumbnail

Kaila Front Page ThumbnailFiji Times & Kaila Frontpage PDF Downloads

Use the free Acrobat Reader to view.

Today's Most Read Stories

  1. New United formation
  2. 10 degrees lowest yet
  3. Misleading phone deals
  4. Party to fight alone
  5. Man pleads for return of medal
  6. Super shark nanna
  7. Hospitality amazes traveller
  8. NZ sevens beaten in Games gold medal match
  9. Recognition for officers
  10. Alarm bells as diabetes forecast points to rise in cases

Top Stories this Week

  1. No 'free education', says party Wednesday (23 Jul)
  2. Playing 'enemy' Tuesday (22 Jul)
  3. $24,000 payout a lifeline for family Tuesday (22 Jul)
  4. Illegal Fijians in Tonga Friday (25 Jul)
  5. Warning for teachers Thursday (24 Jul)
  6. Calls for support Tuesday (22 Jul)
  7. Fijian woman jailed for stealing millions in NZ Sunday (27 Jul)
  8. $70m plan Wednesday (23 Jul)
  9. New United formation Monday (28 Jul)
  10. 10 degrees lowest yet Monday (28 Jul)