At 34, the old warrior is as meticulous about keeping himself fit and game-ready as ever, communicating his health and regiment to the Australian federation on an almost-daily basis. And that’s just as well, because the Australians are still heavily reliant on the forward’s rough-and-tumble contributions that made him the country’s all-time leading scorer.
Getty ImagesScott Barbour
With just three appearances at the World Cup, the Australians have hardly any history there. And with two group stage eliminations, their legacy is virtually non-existent. They did reach the second round in Germany in 2006, in spite of going 1-1-1 in the group stage, but were subsequently bounced by eventual champions Italy.
Australia’s “Golden Generation” has come and gone, and it brought the country further in the soccer world than it had ever been: to two consecutive World Cups and to the knockout stages the first time around. Now, in a last spasm of life, the oldies have pushed their country to a third straight World Cup. But most of them won’t actually play there. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has retired internationally. Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire and Harry Kewell are either done or about to be. Mark Viduka is long gone. Only Cahill and Mark Bresciano remain – and they play in Major League Soccer and Qatar, respectively, rather than the Premier League and Serie A, as they once did. Which means that Ange Postecoglou’s team falls in the gap between generations. The old are washed up, but the new aren’t ready to take their place. So it is, in a sense, a bit unfortunate for Australia to be going to this World Cup at such an ill-timed juncture.
Getty ImagesAdam Pretty
How they got here
Australia owes their place in Brazil as much to the weakness of their opposition in qualifying as they do to their own performances. They went an unremarkable 3-4-1 (W-D-L) scoring just 12 goals in eight games against Japan, Oman, Iraq and Jordan. But they comfortably reached one of the two automatic places in the fourth round of AFC qualifying’s Group B regardless, probably because Asia has too many spots.
AFP/Getty ImagesGREG WOOD
Brutal. Some argue that the United States’s Group G is the group of death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. But you could just as easily argue that it’s Australia’s Group B. Since it contains the 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and the Netherlands, and hyper-organized and much underrated Chile. Frankly, if the Socceroos manage to avoid losing all three games, they’ll have done pretty well for themselves.
AFP/Getty ImagesPORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL
Round of 16 prospects
Non-existent. If, by some miracle, they survive the group stage by snagging second place, which they won’t, they’ll likely face Brazil in the next round. Game over.
AFP/Getty ImagesROSLAN RAHMAN
There isn’t any sense in getting anybody’s hopes up about Australia’s chances. Simply put: they don’t have any. This ragtag bunch lacks the talent to have even a prayer of making it out of its group. They lean very heavily on a very old band of veterans. Trouble is: those veterans are well past it.