World Cup 2018: 3 Australian players to Look Out For 

2018 FIFA World Cup: Australia training session
The Australian national team taking their squad photo
Jong Ching Yee

On 10 June 2018, the Australia national team arrived in Russia, ahead of the World Cup. The country will be playing their opening match against France on Saturday, the 16th of July. As usual, the Socceroos are considered one of the underdogs of the competition. The furthest they had made it in the competition was to the Round of 16 in 2006. During the 2014 edition of the competition held in Brazil, the team was knocked out in the group stage after losing all three matches.

This time around, it does not look easy to advance either as France and Denmark are favorites to emerge victorious in the group. Going into the campaign, Australia had brushed aside the Czech Republic and Hungary, scoring 2 goals or more in both matches. It will certainly be difficult for the national team's manager, Bert, to get any positive result from the fixtures. However, not all hope is lost.

The Dutch manager does have a number of capable and talented players on his team. These are the players who have gained lots of experience outside of A-league and are consistently performing well for their clubs. They have the potential to impress in Russia and perhaps give the Aussies some hope of advancing. On that note, here is a look at the three players to look out for in the competition.

#3 Mathew Ryan

Australia Media Opportunity & Training Session
Ryan would be hoping to do better than the previous World Cup

The Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper is set to be Australia's first choice during the World Cup campaign. Ryan has impressed many in his debut season for the English Premier League club. He was one of the two players from the club to play every single match in the Premier League, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process. It was surely an encouraging performance from him and it has probably solidified his position in the Aussie team.

Since making his international debut in 2012, the 26-year-old has earnt 44 caps and kept 15 international clean sheets. In the previous edition of the World Cup, Ryan played all the matches as the Socceroos lost their three group stage matches and faced immediate elimination. It was definitely a great disappointment for the down-under internationals, who faced Chile, Netherlands, and Spain. This time around, it will not be easy either because Australia has been drawn to face France, Peru, and Denmark. However, Ryan will surely be eager to see his country bounce back in Russia.

Over the four years, Ryan earnt himself the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup competition. He is also known to be accurate with his ball distribution and is extremely confident in claiming the ball from set-pieces and open play. According to Squawka, the goalkeeper has an average claim success of 88% and made an average of 2.79 saves per game. With much more experience now, Ryan could impress for his nation in the World Cup.

#2 Aaron Mooy

Australian Socceroos Training Session
Mooy could strengthen Australia's midfield

In May 2018, Huddersfield's legend, Andy Booth, claimed that Aaron Mooy is the club's best ever player. The former Manchester City player joined Huddersfield as a loanee. After an impressive loan spell in which he played a huge role in The Terriers' promotion to EPL, the club signed him officially. His new club eventually survived relegation battle to stay on in the Premier League next season.

The 27-year-old player has made 34 appearances for his nation till date. During this period of time, he scored 5 goals and created 13 assists for his team. It will be Mooy's first time playing in the World Cup as he was previously not in the squad which traveled to Brazil. According to the player himself, his club's survival in the Premier League has helped him developed and given him more confidence for the upcoming competition in Russia.

Looking at the past records, the midfielder is strong in taking set-pieces and tackling the ball. In total, he made 102 tackles and had a 59% tackle success in England. The Socceroos team has changed quite a lot since the last World Cup and is now hungry for success this time. Mooy is certainly one of the players to keep a lookout for in the midfield of the Aussie team.

#1 Tim Cahill

Australia Media Opportunity & Training Session
Cahill is the fourth-oldest player in the competition

As the oldest player on the team, he is also the most experienced, with 106 caps to his name. In the two international friendlies held in June, Australia won both, but Cahill played only 10 minutes and he did not find the net. The forward has scored 50 international goals in his career and it would be his fourth time playing in the World Cup this summer.

The former Everton forward last played in April 2018 and his match fitness does seem to worry many. Australia has long been dependent on their 38-year-old striker who earnt himself a reputation in England and in the world. However, it looks like the senior player may start on the bench instead of the being named in the starting eleven.

Despite that, his team-mates have backed him to join the elite World Cup club-players who have scored at four World Cups. Cahill is regarded to be very strong in his aerial duels and is capable of holding onto the ball and help his team defensively. As the fourth oldest player of the tournament, it is not expected that he will start every match even though Australia look pretty weak in their attack. Even as a substitute, he could still have a huge influence on the performance of his team and in the dressing room. His deep knowledge of international opponents and experience could give the Socceroos a vital edge as they prepare to face tough opponents.

Edited by Zeeshan Ali


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