Australia ended a 32-year absence from the world stage with their dramatic qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany, having debuted in the same country three decades earlier. The proud sporting nation enhanced their reputation as a growing force in the world game by comfortably securing passage for South Africa 2010 – their first qualification since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Though a team made up entirely of amateurs secured a scoreless draw against Chile, Australia departed from the 1974 FIFA World Cup without a goal to show from their inaugural appearance. The Socceroos made up for lost time at Germany 2006 and qualified for the Round of 16 before narrowly falling to eventual champions Italy. The German theme continued at South Africa 2010 although this time Australia suffered a 4-0 loss against the European giants in a scoreline which ultimately scuppered their progress. A ten-man 1-1 draw against Ghana and a 2-1 win against Serbia saw the Aussies eliminated on goal difference, three goals off the Africans.
The current crop
Having fielded the second-oldest team at South Africa, change within the Australian squad is inevitable with German coach Holger Osieck indicating transformation will occur by evolution rather than revolution. It is a policy which very nearly paid an enormous dividend with Australia only narrowly failing to collect their first silverware since moving to Asia. The Socceroos, fielding numerous veterans from South Africa 2010, impressed during the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, falling to an extra-time defeat against Japan in the final. Much interest will continue to focus throughout the qualifying campaign on the ongoing fusion between the established crop and the new blood.
The key players
Tim Cahill remains the team’s undoubted star and talisman with a stunning goal ratio from midfield and equally remarkable heading ability despite his modest stature. Long-serving skipper and central defender Lucas Neill remains a bedrock of the team and has never let his country down regardless of domestic form. A two-goal showing at South Africa 2010 has seen Brett Holman’s profile and importance to the team take a sharp upward trajectory with the midfielder displaying versatility and an impressive short passing game.
Coach: Holger Osieck
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 (Round of 16), FIFA U-17 World Cup New Zealand 1999 (Runners-up)
Former stars: Johnny Warren, Mark Viduka, Scott Chipperfield