GROUP B
Australia

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Rarely can a nation have approached a World Cup in which they expect to do so very, very badly with so much optimism. The road to an almost inevitable fourth spot in the group promises to be interesting.

Marvellously, rather than accepting the park-it-and-lump-it role of the minnow drawn among sharks, Australia will attempt to take an intelligent tactical approach in Brazil. And instead of a band of mid-level Premier League players, they’ll be trialling a squad most of the world won’t have heard of. They may not win, but everyone will learn something, and a new core of fine Socceroos could emerge.

THE DREAM

A performance like their recent first half against Ecuador. Australia’s bright new kids startled the opposition into mediocrity with their pressing, unsettling them with their persistent chutzpah. They gained a 3-0 half-time lead in that March friendly, Ange Postecoglou’s second game in charge.

A performance from Tim Cahill that rolls back the years, and composure that rolls them forward from talented but green centre-back Matt Spiranovic would be welcome. And a World Cup performance from Brugge keeper Mat Ryan befitting of his club manager – Michel Preud’homme, who at USA 94 won the Yashin Award for best goalkeeper – would be awfully helpful, too.

THE NIGHTMARE

A performance like the second half against Ecuador: a panicked herd of greenhorns, lacking the necessary experience to close down a game, losing all semblance of shape, and committing panic-fuelled red card offences, just as they did on their way to a 4-3 defeat in that March friendly.

For that matter, the Socceroos have had more than their share of red-card offences in the past: 2010 was marred by Tim Cahill's expulsion against Germany and Harry Kewell’s goal-line handball against Ghana. And should Australia unexpectedly stick it to the Group B grandees, they would really prefer it if the dream were not snuffed out by the kind of Fabio Grosso-esque penalty-box dramatics that has been gnawing at their sense of injustice for the past eight years.

THE STATS
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WIN A PULITZER PRIZE: MARK BRESCIANO

Bresc’s World Cup diary segments for spoof Aussie 2010 show Cup Fever included gems such as: “Dear World Cup Diary. Today I had trouble getting up. I had a bad dream about a horse.”

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Provide some inside information: Tommy Oar

The 22-year-old winger will be bang up for the game against Holland: he's spent the last four years at Eredivisie side Utrecht. Having moved there from Brisbane Roar - that's right, Oar from the Roar - when still a teenager, the 5ft 7in wideman is already one of the most experienced Socceroos in a fairly green group.

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CONDUCT TRAINING-CAMP TEA CEREMONIES: JASON DAVIDSON

The Heracles Almelo full-back attended Japanese high school Seiritsu Gakuen, which produced the entire Japan squad. He has never played club football in Australia, but dad Alan, an ex Nottingham Forest utility man, collected 79 caps.

DID YOU KNOW?
The Australia-New Zealand “Soccer Ashes” lasted until 1954. The ashes, from the cigars of Aussie captain Alec Gibb and Kiwi skipper George Campbell, were kept in a silver razor case once carried by a New Zealand soldier at Gallipoli.

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Inexperience and a nightmare group won't stop the Socceroos going for glory with a squad showcasing the burgeoning A-League.