The Socceroos will be out to show they are quick learners when they shape up against France, Denmark and Peru at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
World Cup history
After enduring a 32-year World Cup drought, Australia have become something of regulars at World Cups, now entering their fourth global showpiece in a row after appearances in Germany, South Africa and Brazil.
Australians will need no reminding of how their run through Germany ended, so we will move along from that one. The same points difference in South Africa, with a win over Serbia and draw against Ghana, ultimately was not enough to overturn the effects of a 4-0 thumping by Die Manschaft.
The Socceroos were in transition in Brazil, and despite a gallant effort, they were unable to take points off Chile, Spain and the Netherlands in the infancy of the Ange Postecoglou revolution.
The man to take over from Postecoglou after his sudden resignation in November was Dutchman Bert van Marwijk, his took his Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, where they fell to Spain.
Tactically, the worldly experienced van Marwijk preaches differently to Postecoglou, employing a more pragmatic approach to his possession and beauty-based predecessor. He will do whatever it takes to win.
The Dutchman, who will vacate the Socceroos post at the end of their campaign, has now had some four months to prepare Australia for the World Cup. Fair to say it is not ideal preparation.
Australia enjoy something of an even spread of talent, but the most recognisable name in the squad – or the most recognisable head – is that of Huddersfield Town midfielder Aaron Mooy.
The ‘Pasty Pirlo’ endeared himself to Terriers fans on loan from Manchester City firstly, while they were in the Championship, before making a permanent move and playing a major role in their Premier League survival.
The Socceroos are blessed with a host of central-midfielders, but Mooy will need to pull the strings if they are to have success. Van Marwijk has played his selection cards, picking Mooy in friendlies over the Czech Republic and Hungary.
That very area of the park – central-midfield – is where Australia can boast the most depth. Mooy, Tom Rogic and Massimo Luongo – just to name a few – offer van Marwijk plenty of options.
That is not to mention captain Mile Jedinak. Jackson Irvine too is another with his own set of qualities, so van Marwijk can tinker with his midfield depending on what he wants to extract from Group C opponents.
Personnel aside, fitness could prove a decisive advantage for the Socceroos. They have been locked away in Antalya, Turkey, undergoing hot weather training for some three weeks.
Finding a regular source of goals has long proven a headache for Australia, and truly transitioning from a reliance on storied veteran Tim Cahill, likely to feature at a fourth World Cup.
Tomi Juric, Jamie Maclaren and makeshift No.9 Andrew Nabbout are on the options, and each offer their own attributes. However, the latter two have had their buildup issues through injury and non-selection.
Traditionally a winger, Urawa Red Diamonds man Nabbout has emerged as the front-runner to start against France, starting and scoring in the 4-0 Czech friendly win as well as playing out a half against Hungary.
(4-2-3-1) Ryan; Risdon, Sainsbury, Jurman, Behich; Jedinak, Luongo; Mooy, Leckie, Kruse; Nabbout.
Let’s be honest, they are low. The turnaround time from managerial transition as well as the quality of opponent the Socceroos are up against makes the task in Russia supremely difficult.
The opening match against France in Kazan will tell us plenty about how far this team can progress, similar to the disaster of Durban in 2010. Heavy defeat could spell the end before it begins.
Get something out of Les Blues though and anything could happen. But the realist suggests the Socceroos will bow out at the first hurdle with at least a point to their name.