- Australia eye a sixth World Cup qualification
- Much changed squad under new coach Graham Arnold
- FIFA.com looks at some of the key new personnel
Australia kick off their home qualifying campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar on Thursday seeking a fifth successive qualification for world football’s great showpiece. Only 11 nations are currently on such a run of World Cup qualifying success.
It is a far cry from Australia’s painful 32-year World Cup absence, ended by memorable qualification for Germany 2006. Now a sixth appearance on the world stage is the aim.
There will be a host of new faces in the Green and Gold on the road to Qatar 2022, perhaps more so than at any time during the modern history of the national team. Gone are the likes of Tim Cahill – the last survivor of Germany 2006 – and two-time World Cup captain Mile Jedinak.
Only six of the squad for the home opener against Nepal in Canberra took the field at Russia 2018. There are only four survivors from Australia’s Brazil 2014 odyssey, despite the significant injection of youth undertaken at the time by Ange Postecoglou.
Current boss Graham Arnold – only the second Australian-born coach to lead the side during a World Cup campaign – has his own views about reinvigoration and building squad depth.
Notably, Arnold elected to also take the reins of the national Olympic team in order to help develop the nation’s elite young players in the mould of the current Socceroos’ squad.
“When I took over the job after Russia, I felt that there was only 13, 14 players that were trusted,” he said “When you create depth and competition for places, it creates high standards and players have to earn their shirt.
“I feel now we really have a strong squad of 30-odd players so that if we have an injury we have great players ready to step up.”
So who are the new faces that will likely figure prominently over Asia’s arduous two-year campaign? FIFA.com takes a look at some of the key new names set to feature alongside the likes of Mat Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mat Leckie and Co.
As one only a handful of players featuring in Europe’s top leagues, Freiburg-based Brandon Borrello promises to be a breakthrough star for the Socceroos, despite debuting just four months ago. A powerful and skilful wide attacker, Borrello is the only Aussie to score four goals in an AFC Champions League match.
Now 27, Craig Goodwin is finally starting to turn raw talent into consistent high performances, having started his A-League career with a player of the match performance. A handy left-sided attacker who can also play in a deeper role, the Adelaide-born Goodwin is now capable of scoring goals, often spectacular, with regularity.
Kenyan-born and of South Sudanese extraction, Awer Mabil is the poster-boy for members of Australia’s new generation from the African diaspora. On the field, the wide-attacker immediately shone with a goal minutes into his debut, and then proved his quality with a strong showing at January’s AFC Asian Cup. Off the field, he is an impressive and articulate voice, who is heavily involved in community work.
Full-back Rhyan Grant has not put a foot wrong since forcing his way into the starting side during the Asian Cup, on the back of incredible improvement during the course of his ten-year club career. What Grant lacks in natural talent he more than makes up for with drive and energy on the flank, a characteristic that suits Arnold’s playing style, with the pair having spent several years together at Sydney FC.