What awaits the Socceroos in Brazil 2014?

Adrian Musolino Columnist

63 Have your say

    The Socceroos bench runs onto the field after the referee blows full-time. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    With qualification for a third consecutive World Cup complete, in arguably the most unconvincing campaign of the three, the Socceroos’ greatest challenge still awaits.

    The struggle to qualify, and poor performances that dogged the campaign bar the final three matches, away to Japan and at home to Jordan and Iraq, highlighted the difficulty the Socceroos are having in this period of generational transition.

    There’s no doubting the ability of the last men standing of the golden generation ‘Class of 2006’ to lift to the occasion when a result is needed for their country ā€“ Lucas Neill, Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill, Mark Bresciano and co were key to qualification when it mattered most.

    But the average age of the current Socceroos line-up is 31 years of age, while more concerning is the age and club status of the spine of the team.

    Goalkeeper Schwarzer will be 41 in 2014 and has been forced out a long-time club Fulham. Centre backs Neill and Sasa Ognenovski will be over 35 with captain Neill unattached at club level.

    In the midfield, Cahill and Bresciano are approaching 35 and have long since left the cauldron of European club football.

    Up front, where the greatest concerns remains, qualification goal-scoring hero Josh Kennedy, Archie Thompson and Alex Brosque will all be over 30.

    While their international experience is key, particularly those players shaping up for their third World Cup, at the elite level, on the world’s biggest stage, that age and lack of competitive football could prove costly when it counts in the finals.

    Relying too heavily on this generation of players leaves the Socceroos at risk of being embarrassed in the finals, especially if age should prove too costly in terms of pace, form and matching up against the world’s best.

    Sure, under 25’s Robbie Kruse, Tommy Oar and Tom Rogic have come on leaps and bounds in recent qualifiers and will feature prominently in the Socceroos’ attacking stocks in Brazil 2014, but is there the depth of young talent across the rest of the park?

    Rhys Williams, Jason Davidson, Matthew Spiranovic, Adam Sarota and Matthew Leckie remain on the outer of the national team and will require breakout seasons at club level to come into World Cup contention. Even then, the lack of international experience and time spent in camp with the Socceroos remains a concern.

    Take the question marks over the left-back position, for example, currently filled by 30-year-old Matt McKay, which is screaming out for someone to be given the opportunity to rise up and plug the hole.

    Curtis Good, Shane Lowry, Michael Zullo, Aziz Behich or future Australian convert Adama Traore could slot into the position, but 12 months out from the World Cup, a prime candidate needs to emerge soon.

    While there is an under-20 World Cup on the horizon and 12 months of club football between now and kick-off in Brazil, there will be precious few opportunities to impress in a Socceroos shirts, making friendlies against the likes of Brazil vital.

    Encouragingly for Australian football, this next generation slowly filtering into the Socceroos squad is a product of the A-League, including Rogic, Oar and Kruse.

    But while the ‘Class of 2006’ takes its final bow in Brazil, the A-League generation may not have its chance to take charge of the national team until qualification for Russia 2018.

    Coach Holger Osieck was rightfully praised for his bravery in subbing perennial saviour Cahill for goal-scorer Kennedy late on in the crucial qualifier against Iraq. But his greatest test awaits in the next 12 months and the decisions he makes heading to Brazil.

    He and Australia need to hope that Neill, Cahill, Schwarzer and co can retain their form over the next season and continue to defy age, while more promising youngsters push their way the squad in order to accelerate the change and competition for places. Otherwise it could be a bleak World Cup in Brazil, based on some of the poor performances of the qualifying campaign.

    Remember, too, that the 2015 Asian Cup awaits on home soil six months after the World Cup, so ensuring there is a competitive squad in place post-World Cup should only accelerate the changing of the guard.

    Any result that comes in Brazil will be a bonus for the Socceroos during the difficult transition away from the golden generation. Just qualifying for a third consecutive World Cup could be their curtain call.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2013 @ 6:53am
      Tim Holt said | June 20th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      It is great for the game in Australia that we qualified, but it was qualification mainly due to the weakness of the group rather than any calibre in the team

      The Team lacks quality on every line with its stars ageing and lost their cutting edge and then the youngsters handy, but far a way from being world class. You saw that in their poor first touches, inability to hit basic balls and lack of any idea in the attacking third

      Unless we find some stars in the next year, I think we will be smashed in the WC

      • June 20th 2013 @ 8:52am
        Top Secret said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        The squad does lack quality. Struggled to beat a under 20 team at home that had little to play for. Imagine what Germany or Brazil would do to this team…

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2013 @ 7:09pm
        Kane Cassidy said | June 20th 2013 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

        You’d love that woiuldn’t you?

    • June 20th 2013 @ 7:42am
      Todd said | June 20th 2013 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      With the first job of qualification now complete, we need to look at the next task, and that is actually being competitive at the WC. There was evidence of old legs out there Tuesday night, and another 12 months is a very long time to people in their thirties. As good and skillful as Bresciano is with the way he controls the game, he does tend to fall off the pace, so we really need to be thinking about game time for a player who can back him up as required (Maybe see if we can qualify Broich?). And Og, Neill, Wilkshire & McKay bring experience and calm, but they are going to be torn to shreds by the young forwards from Africa and South America. This was evident with the 17yo Iraqi striker who looked to have acres of space and time with the limited opportunities his team gave him. Imagine our back 4 being pestered by 2 world class strikers and creative mid fielders, as opposed to the 1 up and comer from Tuesday night. Scary!

      I truly hope the next 12 months is not wasted with developing a fit and cohesive unit, and that some people acknowledge that in 12 months they wont be up to world cup standards and retire immediately. What better way to retire then by guiding your nation to the world cup.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 12:32pm
        Freddy of Bondi said | June 20th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Where does Harry Kewell fit in to the picture do you think?

        I still think he would be one of Australia’s most creative and threatening players…despite his age, and depending on him getting through a full A-League season…should he be picked?

        • June 20th 2013 @ 1:21pm
          AGO74 said | June 20th 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

          Highly surprised if he makes it to Brazil as a starter. I think H’s best chance to make Brazil is as an ‘impact’ sub. Compare H’s skills to the potential alternatives of the bench – Brosque etc

    • June 20th 2013 @ 8:19am
      jamesb said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      I remember the Iraq game away, the two players that chnaged Australia’s fortunes were the youngsters, Kruse and Oar.

      Kruse was Australias best player that day, while Oar set up the assist for Archie, if my memory serves me correctly. So both of those players have done well, considering trhe lack of experience playing at international level. They have both contributed by either setting up, or scoring goals.

      In that playing squad of 14 on Tuesday night, we had three youngsters in Oar, Kruse and Rogic. I think we need another three more youngsters that need to come through at a min. If you were to have six youngsters in that playing squad, you then start to have right balance of youth and experience.

      We have 12 months to find those young players.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 8:50am
        Top Secret said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Finding 3 young players in 12 months. Lets be realistic. They arent going to pop out of nowhere. If they arent part of the squad by now they arent going to play at the world cup. This is the best we got, and its a worry to think what will happen against Spain if they meet.

        • June 20th 2013 @ 8:57am
          Franko said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          We don’t really know if 3 is unrealistic or not as Holger has been reluctant to try youngsters. Blind Freddy could see that Oar, Kruse and Rogic were ready for the NT but it took Holger a long time.

          Iā€™d argue that Williams and Herd (when fit) could walk in to a spot in our back 4, but Holger will take some convincing.

          • June 20th 2013 @ 9:03am
            jamesb said | June 20th 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

            Top Secret and Franko

            I think Australia has the players to put in a useful squad, however there is rough diamonds to look out for, example Shane Lowry, rather then shiny gems.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 9:51am
        Aljay said | June 20th 2013 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        The young players most likely to break into starting calculation are Zullo at LB, Leckie at CF or Sarota at CM. If you’re looking for real smokies then its Eli Babilj (sp) at CF, Trent Sainsbury at RB or Bradden Inman somewhere in midfield. Or, given that a few games in Europe seems to get you noticed – Oliver Bozanic if he gets playing time in the Swiss league.

        The “tell him his dreaming” pair are either Tom King or Brad Smith breaking through in the EPL at LB.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 10:19am
        Michael_Newcastle said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Other countries have players in the top leagues of the world, playing top-flight football. Van Persie, Suarez, Neymar, Ronaldo, Messi, Schweinsteiger, Lahm the list goes on and on. How can we expect to perform like a nation with such players?

        Why cry about getting beaten at the World Cup? Apart from Robbie Kruse playing in the Bundesliga, we don’t have a lot of players playing regularly in the highest teams in the highest leagues. Let’s be happy that we are there and will be competing. We have time to improve football in Australia and become truly competitive in the World Cup in the future.

        We can’t just expect to plonk our hopeful youngsters into WCQ’s and international friendlies and expect them to suddenly become world-class players. Yes, we should be looking to build depth but not through wholesale abandonment of the players that qualified us.

        • June 20th 2013 @ 1:23pm
          AGO74 said | June 20th 2013 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

          What’s interesting is that often the biggest players in club football are unable to translate that status to tournament football such as the World Cup.

    • June 20th 2013 @ 8:49am
      Top Secret said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      Its not Holgars fault that a lack of quality has come through over the last 6 years so he has had to stick with some of the older players. Holgar has done a brilliant job blending the old with the new. Well done. Those who questioned him haven’t put their hands up and admitted they were wrong. Didnt expect them to.

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2013 @ 8:50am
      TomC said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Watching Japan – Italy at the moment. We have a lot of work to do to play at that level. Hard to believe watching this game we managed to draw with Japan a few weeks ago.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 8:52am
        Top Secret said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Australia played well against a Japan team that didnt really have a finisher and has a dud coach.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 20th 2013 @ 8:57am
          Passionate_Aussie said | June 20th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          Australia also always does extremely well or bats above their weight when it comes to Japan.

          • June 20th 2013 @ 10:41am
            Punter said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:41am | ! Report

            Australia does well against the odds, we play better against the better teams, because of our strong structure & organization skills plus our strong will to win, we rely on absorbing pressure & hitting them on the break. Against lesser teams, we lack the creativity to break them down & this was shown against Oman, Thailand & Iraq during this campaign. This is the issue we have, while a country like Japan lacks a finisher, we lack players with ability to create something in the final 3rd. This is where the likes of Rogic, Kruse & Oar, needs more int’l experience to develop.

            • June 20th 2013 @ 1:24pm
              AGO74 said | June 20th 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

              +1. Absolutely.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 20th 2013 @ 1:29pm
              Passionate_Aussie said | June 20th 2013 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Hopefully the football season for 2013/14 delivers for our Socceroo hopefuls. Game time 100% the biggest factor in determining selection. Mile Jedinak and Robbie Kruse I expect to do well. Unless Kruse’s club decide to go with the other option… His challenger for his position.

              The extension of the A-league season will help too, immensely. That was fantastic work by FFA.

    • Roar Guru

      June 20th 2013 @ 9:09am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | June 20th 2013 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      “What awaits the Socceroos in Brazil 2014?”

      Well, at this stage, anyone who follows football knows the only things we know for certain are:

      1. The World Cup will be held in Brasil
      2. The teams that will definitely be in Brasil are: BRA, JPN, AUS, IRN & KOR

      We know nothing else.

      We don’t know which other 27 nations will be invited to the tournament.
      We don’t know which nations AUS will be playing.
      We don’t know which cities/venues AUS will be playing.

      So, at this stage – 36 hours after qualification – it’s absurd to spend even 1 minute thinking about “what awaits in Brasil”.

      As Kasey mentioned yesterday, now that AUS has qualified people, who don’t follow football, will move from “AUS won’t qualify” to “AUS will be smashed in Brasil”.

      PS: I don’t follow cricket, or RL … it must be time for me to write an article on The Roar about what awaits AUS in the Ashes, or RL World Cup.

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2013 @ 9:31am
        AndyRoo said | June 20th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        I am pretty sure we will have to play 3 games in two weeks in the group stage portion šŸ™‚

        On a more serious note I think we will see a lot of articles like this. It’s going to be a massive year for Australian players overseas and in the A league.

        This is the first time I feel that if a player does really well (every week) in the A league then he should be on the plane to Brasil.

        Last time it felt a little like charity but under Holger we saw Mckay and Milligan go from being A league players into the starting 11 of the Socceroos and doing really well.

        The only thing I don’t like is the negativity and panic. We have so many players on the books overseas and it’s only really the back 4 that are concerning.

        If Zullo and Rhys Williams have good seasons for their club then I think our squad will look decent.

        Not good enough to win it but good enough to compete and see what happens šŸ™‚

        • June 20th 2013 @ 9:55am
          Aljay said | June 20th 2013 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          AndyRoo – I’d back Trent Sainsbury or Ivan Franjic to be that player.

          • Roar Guru

            June 20th 2013 @ 10:14am
            AndyRoo said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            I am a big Sainsbury fan as well.

            I remember for 2010 the centre back stocks were really depleted. Craig Moore was on his last legs and we needed him to play 3 games.

            This time we might still start with Og and Neil (same lack of speed problem) but I am more confident in the potential back ups.

            • June 20th 2013 @ 6:23pm
              whiskeymac said | June 20th 2013 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

              Moore also played really well in those games….

              • June 21st 2013 @ 10:57am
                Aljay said | June 21st 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

                Respectfully disagree, going off the form of Beauchamp in the game against Serbia – he should have started from the beginning.

        • June 20th 2013 @ 10:04am
          oly said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Well said Fuss and Andy.
          It all depends on the season players have ahead of them. You think the stress is over after they qualify, but now we have 12 months of worrying about players’ fitness, form etc.

          • Roar Guru

            June 20th 2013 @ 10:17am
            AndyRoo said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            I guess I am still covered in the warm glow that comes from qualifying but I am not that stressed at all.

            I think we have few stars and a lot of depth (players of similar ability) so I am not that worried about injuries and such. We don’t have many players who are irreplaceable.

            I guess closer to the even I might panic if Kennedy was injured and we had no genuine centre forward.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 10:23am
        Hawker said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        Sorry but I do know football and this team will be lucky to get a win and if in a tough group will be lucky to get a point. They’re obviouly not as talented as 2006. That’s how it is.

        • Roar Guru

          June 20th 2013 @ 10:39am
          Fussball ist unser leben said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          @Hawker

          Since you “know football”, can you please tell me which group you consider to be “the toughest” at WC2014. Remember, there can’t be more than 1 AFC team in any 1 group.

          I’m eager to analyse your “tough group”.

          • June 20th 2013 @ 11:19am
            Hawker said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:19am | ! Report

            I know that as an asian qualifier we are in the pot with a top 8 seed – no ? If you think we can beat a top 8 side frankly you’re kidding yourself. So thats one game down. Plus the fact we cannot draw another AFC side only further dents our chances getting anywhere – this isn’t knock on the team like I said they are inferior to 2006 and likely to be weaker than 2010.

            • Roar Guru

              June 20th 2013 @ 11:31am
              Fussball ist unser leben said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

              “I know that as an asian qualifier we are in the pot with a top 8 seed ā€“ no ”

              Has nothing to do with “Asian qualifier”.

              It’s simple arithmetic. If there are 8 groups, every team is in a Group with a “Top 8” seed!

              In 2010 we beat the Serbians … who also beat might Germany. We drew with GHA despite playing of 60 minutes with 10 men.

              There is nothing to suggest this team is weaker than 2010.

              • June 20th 2013 @ 11:55am
                Hawker said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:55am | ! Report

                “In 2010 we beat the Serbians ā€¦ who also beat might Germany.” So what , Germany pantsed us

                in the second phase of qualifying for 2010 – we won 6 game and drew 2. only conceded 1 goal in 8 games

                this time we have won 3 drawn 4 lost 1 – if that isn’t evidence this team isn’t as good as 2010 then I don’t know what is

              • June 20th 2013 @ 11:56am
                Greg said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:56am | ! Report

                I happen to think the NT played pretty well in South Africa, well above my expectations. I was very disappointed with the over reaction to the 0-4 result against Germany. Sure, wrong tactics by the coach and team, but Foster & SBS lost the plot. Played very well against Ghana, Harry’s handball probably the difference between making the Round of 16.

                The current Team should do at least as well, that is be very competitive in 2 games, hope for something like 2006 versus the Seeded team, which was a 0-2 result in Munich against Brazil, and perhaps get out of our Group.

              • Roar Guru

                June 20th 2013 @ 12:03pm
                Fussball ist unser leben said | June 20th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

                @Hawker

                Germany smashed the superstars from Argentina – a team that contained the best footballer on earth; and England – a team that contains some of players from the richest competition on earth.

                Not sure if you were actually following the National Team during the 2010 WC Qualification period?

                If you were, you would realise we rode our luck during that campaign with some very fortunate wins that should have been draws.

                Even in the 3rd stage of qualification, we needed a Schwarzer penalty save to avoid certain defeat away to CHN. We could have faced elimination very early on.

                I agree the results under Verbeek were fantastic. Let’s not write fairytales about the quality of the football.

        • June 20th 2013 @ 11:59am
          Greg said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          We got 4 points in South Africa, same number as we got in Germany 2006. This team will do no worse and could do better than in the past.

        • June 20th 2013 @ 12:26pm
          Hawker said | June 20th 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          @Fuss yes I saw most of the 2010 qualifying I agree the standings flattered them. I’ll be happy for this squad to prove me wrong in Brazil

          @Greg I totally agree with you re SBS and Foster. I generally like Foz’s passion for the game, but saying the coach should justify his team and tactics to a group of ex socceroos captains prior to the next game was one of the silliest pieces of nonsense from a pundit I’ve ever heard

      • June 20th 2013 @ 10:25am
        Michael_Newcastle said | June 20th 2013 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        Amen

      • Roar Guru

        June 20th 2013 @ 11:09am
        HardcorePrawn said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        “The teams that will definitely be in Brasil are: BRA, JPN, AUS, IRN & KOR
        We know nothing else.”

        Too true! We also know that of the teams already qualified, as FIFA keep teams from the same confederations apart, only Brazil have a chance of being in the same group as Australia.
        It’s very early days…

        Funnily enough, your reference to people not following football reminds me that 4 years ago, when Australia qualified for South Africa 2010, I had to put up with a number of bandwagon-jumpers telling me that my nation (England) were obviously cr@p as we hadn’t qualified yet.
        Ignoring the fact that England *are* cr@p, pointing out that the Euro qualifications were still only half-way through fell on deaf ears.
        However I keep wondering if this argument is likely to get an airing again, I half expect that someone in the media (I’m thinking commercial TV, the ones that rarely pay any attention to the sport) may bring it up…

        • June 20th 2013 @ 11:21am
          Hawker said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:21am | ! Report

          England ARE cr@p the ‘bandwagoners’ were right

          • Roar Guru

            June 20th 2013 @ 11:25am
            HardcorePrawn said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Um… yeah… I made that point in my own comment.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 11:42am
        pete4 said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        Spot on Fuss!

        FIFA announced the other day the draws for the 2014 World Cup African qualifying 3rd round and European play-off stage will take place in September and October respectively so we have months to wait before even this happens let alone the actual World Cup draw.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 11:58am
        CmonJETS said | June 20th 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        What awaits the socceroos in brazil…me and 15000 other mad supporers…. now just to work out how to get there.

      • June 20th 2013 @ 6:22pm
        whiskeymac said | June 20th 2013 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

        Thirteen hour time difference too. Plan days off now…

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