Football Australia, the official football governing body, on November 8 (Tuesday) announced the final World Cup squad. Manager Graham Arnold unveiled the 26-men team, which has also thrown some surprises. In recent years, Australia have been brilliantly qualifying for every tournament since 2006.
The Socceroos are in Group D with defending champions France, Denmark, and Tunisia. And will be looking to at least qualify for the Round of 16. This is because Australia chose to join the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on January 1 2006, leaving the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). And the decision has seemed to pay off, with Australia qualifying for five consecutive World Cup finals.
So, who has made the cut for the Australian World Cup squad and who has missed out?
— FootTheBall FC (@FootTheBallFC) November 8, 2022
Australia World Cup squad
Three significant omissions from Australia’s World Cup squad were centre-back Trent Sainsbury, attacking midfielder Tom Rogic, and goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak. Sainsbury has made 58 appearances for the national team, while Rogic plays for EFL side West Bromwich Albion, and Langerak is the most experienced shot-stopper in the nation.
Instead of Langerak, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic, and Andrew Redmayne made the cut, with Ryan being named as captain. Graham Arnold has opted for the solid defensive duo of Harry Souttar and Sunderland’s Bailey Wright. They will be starters for the centre-back spots, with Aziz Behich and Fran Karacic being favourites for the left-back and right-back spots, respectively. Other players in the backline are Milos Degenek, Nathaniel Atkinson, Thomas Deng, Kye Rowles, and Joel King.
In midfield, Australia will have their best player in Celtic’s Aaron Mooy, who will be tasked with controlling the game’s tempo. And he will have support from Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, and Riley McGree. Irvine’s responsibility will be to do the dirty work as the other midfielders work their magic up the field. The final two spots in the midfield have gone to Adelaide United’s Riley McGree and St Mirren’s Keanu Baccus.
However, in attack, Graham Arnold has sprung a surprise by naming 18-year-old Garang Kuol. The Central Coast Mariners striker is one of Australia’s brightest talents and will join Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United in January. He will feature in an attack with in-form forward Jason Cummings. He will not be alone and will be joined by Jamie Maclaren and Mitchell Duke, who are quite effective in the role. The experienced Mathew Leckie, Awer Mabil, Craig Goodwin, and Martin Boyle, who is Australia’s best attacker on paper and remains integral to their qualification hopes.
Australian 2022 World Cup team:
Goalkeepers: Matt Ryan (captain), Danny Vukovic, Andrew Redmayne.
Defenders: Harry Souttar, Milos Degenek, Bailey Wright, Thomas Deng, Fran Karacic, Nathaniel Atkinson, Aziz Behich, Kye Rowles, Joel King
Midfielders: Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustic, Cameron Devlin, Riley McGree, Keanu Baccus
Forwards: Jamie Maclaren, Mitchell Duke, Jason Cummings, Garang Kuol, Awer Mabil, Mathew Leckie, Craig Goodwin, Martin Boyle
Key players to watch out for
If there is one player who will need to bring his best to the World Cup, it will be Aaron Mooy. The midfielder has represented several Premier League clubs, such as Huddersfield and Brighton, playing under managers such as Graham Potter and thus will be integrated into Socceroos’s campaign in Qatar.
Mooy’s responsibility will be to dictate the tempo of the game and, at the same time, ensure they do not get overrun in the middle of the park.
The other key player for Australia in Qatar will be their captain and starting goalkeeper Matt Ryan. The shot-stopper was Mooy’s teammate at Brighton, where Ryan played 121 matches across four years. While in Australia’s group France are the favourites to top, but the second spot is up for grabs. And in such a tight race, an impressive display by a goalkeeper will go a long way in helping a team’s chances for qualification.
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Best young player for Australia
The only rising baller in this Australian team is Garang Kuol. Born to parents who migrated to Australia from Egypt, Kuol is the country’s crown jewel and has a bright future ahead of him. With five goal contributions to his name in just 243 professional minutes at 17, the excitement surrounding the explosive winger quickly became palpable. Simply put, no other 17-year-old has ever made such an immediate impact in Australia’s top tier.
Kuol’s playing style is characterised by his extreme confidence on the ball and capacity to drive forward in possession with little worry about the defence standing in his way. While this is not uncommon for players of his age, who are typically less risk-averse on the pitch than those with more experience, Kuol takes this idea to the next level.
While it is unlikely he will be given a starting role, he could be used as an impact sub when they are searching for a goal.
While Garang Kuol may be hogging all the limelight after being named in the Australian squad, one more young gun may spring a surprise at the World Cup. Joel King, who plays as a left-back for Danish club Odense Boldklub, will deputise in the role behind first-choice Aziz Behich. However, King is an exceptional talent and will be rewarded with minutes. And if he can make a special impression at the World Cup, then a significant transfer is bound to come soon.
Australia records at World Cup
Australia will be making their fifth consecutive World Cup finals appearance, a record in their history. They are also the team from the region that have qualified for the Round of 16. Moreover, they will be making their sixth World Cup appearance, the third-best for an Asian team.
Well, all said and done, Australia have one of the weakest squads in the World Cup. Their formation is based on defensive stability, which relies on counterattacks to catch their rivals off-guard. However, executing these tactics at the World Cup against the top teams is no mean feat. At best, they could qualify for the Round of 16, but against a quality Denmark side, even that doesn’t look easy.
FootTheBall predicts a first-round exit for Australia, who will finish third in their group.