Australia face battle to reach last 16, even with leader Matt Ryan between the sticks – predicted line ups and stats

AUSTRALIA will face a difficult group considering their aspirations.

The Socceroos will have to fight for a spot in the knockout phase against France, Denmark and Tunisia. 

Even if Australia manages to beat Tunisia, they’ll probably need to be beat one of France or Denmark – not easy at all.

However, Australia has been a regular team in the World Cup for a while and they certainly have chances of going forward after the group stage.

Predicted starting XI

The most likely starting formation that Australia will use is a 4-2-3-1. A 4-4-2  is their second most-used formation.

Former Brighton stopper Mathew Ryan should be the regular goalie, with the experienced stopper currently the Socceroos captain and therefore a player that holds a lot of influence in the side. Sydney FC’s Andrew Redmayne, however, is considered a good substitute. 

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In defence, the two full-backs will be tasked with getting up the pitch and supporting attacks as often as possible, with both Nathaniel Atkinson and Aziz Behich having shown themselves to be adept at that side of the game. 

In between them, it will be important that Arnold selects the right combination of players.

Bailey Wright and Kye Rowles, give Australia a mix of qualities but also some much-needed experience.

In the two holding roles, again it will be important to find the right combination of players, with Arnold likely to want one player who can sit back and one who prefers to push forward. 

Aaron Mooy, formerly of Brighton and Huddersfield Town and currently of Celtic, will have a key role in offering defensive protection when it is required,.

Australia’s expected line-up in Qatar


Ahead of them, Riley McGree is a very highly-rated player who Australia will need to be at his creative best.

Mathew Leckie and Awer Mabil are both capable of getting behind opposing defences and exploiting any spaces that they leave open.

However, whilst it is important to create opportunities, Australia will also need a striker, and the most likely player to fill that role is Mitchell Duke, who has shown during recent friendlies that he can lead the line and pose a threat in the final third.

Attacking phase

The key point to make about Australia’s offensive phases of play is that they have different ways of building attacks.

Where they often slip up is their goal conversion rate.

Australia aim to move the ball into the final third quickly and target key players

As mentioned, Australia’s primary tactics are to move the ball into the final third as quickly as possible and to target key players.

Socceroos more inventive players move into space where they can be dangerous

When they arrive in the final third, Australia’s focus immediately switches towards creating space and allowing their more inventive players to take the ball into areas where they can be dangerous.

Here, the trio of Hearts defender Atkinson, Fagiano Okayama striker Duke and Melbourne City forward Marco Tilio have found themselves in the forward line.

Defensive phase

When defending, Australia tend to focus on getting numbers back behind the ball and making it as difficult as possible to score against them. 

When defending, Australia focus on getting numbers back

This determination to not let teams score easy goals against them is shown here, with five players forming a protective line in front of the box.

It is also worth noting that their favoured formation only allows four defenders at any one time, so there is a great deal of reliance on the midfielders and even some of the forwards to get back here and play their part in making the team hard to beat.

Therefore, again, there are clear indications of the team ethic that is ingrained in so much of the Socceroos’ play.

Chris Wood is targeted for long balls forward

It is important to note though that they are not watertight, and there are ways of breaking them down and getting into the spaces behind them.

New Zealand worked this out and subsequently stationed Newcastle striker Chris Wood in front of the defensive line, targeting him with long balls, as this situation shows.

Transitions

Australia are adaptable in transitions from defence to attack

It has already been mentioned that Australia’s primary focus when they lose possession is to get players back behind the ball.

Tactics include long passes down the channels

When in defence-to-attack transitions, Australia are again adaptable, with their different tactics meaning that they can assess the situation ahead of them and then act depending on what the best option is.

Attackers

The sector is not where their strengths lie. All players including Tilio, Mabil, Leckie and Hibernian’s Martin Boyle have not been showing many promising statistics for deliveries into the middle.

Midfielders

The main roles of the midfielders are to offer defensive protection and, if Australia looked to play short passes along the ground, to give the defenders passing options and to help transfer the ball through the thirds. 

Defenders

With defending being such a key aspect of Australia’s tactics, the players in this section of the pitch will need to have high statistics in all areas of the role to have a chance of featuring in Qatar.

These include winning duels both on the ground and in the air and passing out from their own third, and finding the right centre-back combination could be what decides whether the Socceroos keep a clean sheet or not.

Key player

The one position that has not been discussed and yet brings the whole team together is the attacking midfielder.

More often than not, this role will be given to Riley McGree, who has grown as a player in recent seasons.

He was praised for his work ethic and versatility during his loan spell at Birmingham City while he has shown promise since his permanent switch to Middlesbrough in January. 

On his first start for the Australian senior team, he assisted two goals against Chinese Taipei and was named man-of-the-match for his efforts.

Hee will quite simply be a vital player to have in-form if the Socceroos are to have any chance of being competitive in Qatar.

Being an attacking midfielder, the defensive side of the game is not one of his main responsibilities. 

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Tournament prediction

Realistically, the group is expected to have France and Denmark progressing to the Round of 16.

But Australia has what it takes to surprise the world and finish 2nd, it all will depending on their big debut against title holders’ France.

For even more detailed analysis of all 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup 2022, download your copy of the November Total Football Analysis magazine here

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