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Australia World Cup team shoots high

Up-and-coming Australian soccer team aims to build on success of 2006 performance despite a brutal draw.

An Australia fan cheers before the start of the 2010 World Cup qualification match against Japan, south of Tokyo on February 11, 2009. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Australia World Cup Team Statistics: Group D

Status: Knocked out round 2

World Ranking: 20

World Cup 2010 Results: 1-1-1

Total goals scored: 3

Total goals scored against: 6

Australia World Cup Schedule: June 13 - Germany (0-4 loss); June 19 - Ghana (1-1 draw); June 23 - Serbia (2-1 win)

Australia World Cup Soccer 2010

Australia’s soccer experience rather mimics that of another former British colony, the United States. Down Under the sport was always regarded as an entertainment for new immigrants and never approached the popularity of such athletic staples as rugby, cricket, Australian rules football, tennis, golf and swimming.

While Australia did reach the 1974 World Cup, where it failed to score a goal, it was only with the 2006 Cup success that the sport has blossomed there. Suddenly lining up a youth soccer team for your child requires seriously advanced booking and 40,000 World Cup tickets for South Africa have been sold to Aussie fans.

Read all of GlobalPost's World Cup 2010 coverage

Since Australia cast its qualifying lot with Asia, its preparation regimen is far more rigorous — no more games with the Solomon Islands — but not so tough as to keep the Aussies at home. Ultimately what might propel Australia to more success than the Yanks is the nation’s extraordinary sports culture. It overachieves in almost every sport it plays. With its penal colony roots and profound isolation, Australia has something of an inferiority complex. That national chip on the shoulder tends to make Aussies ferocious competitors.

Australia World Cup History: Australia has only been to two previous World Cups. But competing now in Asian qualification the Socceroos could become a World Cup perennial.

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Australia World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Like Americans, Australians are not overly sophisticated about international soccer. So after Australia reached the round of 16 in 2006, losing just 1-0 to eventual champ Italy, its fans expect similar good fortune. That, however, doesn’t account for being drawn into a group that is brutal top-to-bottom.

Australia World Cup Team Coach: Pim Verbeek

After 2006 Cup success with the notable Dutchmen, Guus Hiddink, at the helm, the Aussies turned to one of his countrymen and disciples. The transition has been successful, but Verbeek’s style — just like Hiddink’s with only one attacker on top — is a disappointment to fans that covet some style along with favorable results.

Australia World Cup Team Strength: Great depth in the midfield, which bolsters the defensive formation and frees up midfielders to run until they drop. Backed by a superb, veteran goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer. Australia allowed only one goal in its final eight-game qualification round.

Australia World Cup Team Weakness: Australia inevitably struggles to score and it finds itself in a group with some powerful offenses.

Australia World Cup Key Player: Tim Cahill

After six seasons with Everton in the English Premier League Everton, where he has established himself as a creative offensive force, Cahill is likely the best option to score off either a set play or the counterattack. Despite standing only 5’10”, he is clever at positioning himself in front of the net and skilled in the air. In Australia’s 2006 World Cup opener against Japan, he scored twice as part of a three-goal rally in the final 10 minutes for the team’s historic, first-ever Cup victory — and ultimately a surprise spot in the knockout rounds.

 

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