World Cup 2014 review – Australia

Quarter-finals: FranceColombiaBelgiumCosta Rica

Round of 16: ChileUruguayMexicoGreeceNigeriaAlgeriaSwitzerlandUSA
A: CroatiaCameroon B: SpainAustralia C: Ivory CoastJapan D: ItalyEngland
E: EcuadorHonduras F: BosniaIran G: PortugalGhana H: RussiaSouth Korea

AUSTRALIA

World Cup progress: Group stage

Team rating: 7

Top scorer: Cahill (2)

Although Australia crashed out in the group stages, their valiant performances in the ‘Group of Death’ sees them leave Brazil with their heads held high, writes Cronan Yu.

Socceroos valiant in defeat

There was a collective groan amongst Australian football supporters early December last year when the World Cup groups were drawn. The collective dismay was understandable given that the Socceroos were drawn in what was billed as the ‘Group of Death’.

With world champions Spain, 2010 runners-up the Netherlands and South American dark horses Chile all in their group, the Australians faced the near impossible task of proving their quality and progressing into the knockout stages. And while they were unable to claim a single point, their performances against the world’s best were, admittedly, admirable.

In the lead-up to the opening matches, Coach Ange Postecoglou often spoke of his side’s fearless mentality. After all, the mastermind controversially opted to select a vastly inexperienced 23-man squad, 10 of whom plied their trade in the A-League. And fearless they were.

Unforeseen and unscripted, the underdogs proved their credentials, and although they were unable to replicate their brilliant run back in 2006, the future of Australian football is bright.

Their opening encounter against Chile was just the start of better things to come. Understandably, the Socceroos got off to a nervy start and an aggressive Chile forward-pack attacked the Australians in a stampede-like manner, Australia’s defence was seemingly tatters. Two goals in as many minutes says it all.

And yet, unlike the previous sides under the tutelages of Holger Osieck and Pim Verbeek, Australia took the match to their opponents, attacking and exploiting their gaps. A draw was seemingly on the cards and if it were another night, it’s arguable that Ange’s men would’ve come away with at least a point.

Their exploits did not end there. The Netherlands were under the pump from the off in their second match, creating numerous chances. Yet again, when they fell behind, the Socceroos epitomised the Australian ‘never say die’ attitude, and hit back seconds later, with a Marco van Basten-esque volley courtesy of Tim Cahill. And while the score-line reads as a loss, for many, it felt just like a win.

And while they were unable to salvage a point against a Spain side that finally looked like they were at their imperial best, the Socceroos exited their tournament with heads held high.

Indeed, amateur errors were made time and time again, but that can be left for another time. What has been impressive about Australia’s campaign is the quality that, contrary to popular belief, showed they can match it with the best – a far cry from 6-0 consecutive losses to Brazil and France months ago.

Most importantly, though, they earned the respect of the wider footballing community, and instead of negative defensive tactics which are so often used nowadays, the Australians took it to the best in the world. For Australia, the only way is up, and an exciting future lies before them.

The Coach – Ange Postecoglou

Having previously never featured in a World Cup, Ange Postecoglou was given the task of preparing his team to take on the best countries in the world. His job was only made the more difficult by the reluctance of his predecessors to regenerate an ageing squad – their tactics too were conservative at best. And yet, the former A-League Coach was able to deliver the goods, getting his side to play attractive football and he instilled a mentality which allowed them to perform beyond public expectations.

Player of the Tournament – Tim Cahill

With such an inexperienced squad heading into a World Cup for the first time, Tim Cahill, who had previously featured in the 2006 and 2010 editions, was tasked with leading Australia’s attack. And he showed why he is now regarded as Australia’s most accomplished player. The former Everton man scored two goals, both of which gave the team hope. And his leadership qualities aided Australia’s cause.

Memorable moment – Tim Cahill’s volley

It’s not every day that a player scores from a volley, let alone in a manner which evoked memories of the past. Cahill’s Marco van Basten-esque volley against the Netherlands is one for the ages – his technique was impeccable. And the situation of the match itself only makes the goal more memorable.

Results

13-Jun-14 Chile 3-1 Australia Group B
18-Jun-14 Australia 2-3 Netherlands Group B
23-Jun-14 Australia 0-3 Spain Group B
Group B P W D L F A Pts
Netherlands 3 3 0 0 10 3 9
Chile 3 2 0 1 5 3 6
Spain 3 1 0 2 4 7 3
Australia 3 0 0 3 3 9 0

Squad

No Pos Player Apps Goals Assists
1 GK Mat Ryan 3
12 GK Mitchell Langerak
18 GK Eugene Galekovic
3 D Jason Davidson 3
2 D Ivan Franjic 1
19 D Ryan McGowan 3
6 D Matthew Spiranovic 3
22 D Alex Wilkinson 3
8 D Bailey Wright
13 M Oliver Bozanic 2
23 M Marco Bresciano 3
16 M James Holland
15 M Mile Jedinak 3 1
21 M Massimo Luongo
17 M Matt McKay 2
5 M Mark Milligan 1
11 M Tommy Oat 3
14 M James Troisi 2
20 M Dario Vidosic
4 A Tim Cahill 2 2
9 A Adam Taggart 1
10 A Ben Halloran 3
7 A Matthew Leckie 3 1

For a complete review of the 2014 World Cup, check out the next issue of Soccer Italia, written by the team at Football Italia and available on worldwide subscription.