World Cup prediction: Australia
After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's "outlook" gives a general view of their situation ahead of the tournament, while "pitfalls" has a look at any potential problems. Elsewhere, each country will predict their top scorer and breakout star while also suggesting how far they can go.
A 1-1 draw at home to South Africa before departing for Brazil did little to boost Australian hopes, while injuries to Curtis Good, Tom Rogic and Josh Kennedy certainly weakened an already inexperienced squad.
However, there were enough positive signs in that clash and the subsequent friendly with Croatia, which saw a narrow 1-0 defeat, to suggest the Socceroos can avoid humiliation in their group. There is a little more work to be done in terms of combinations and conviction in the attacking third of the pitch, but there's nothing like the cauldron of the World Cup to forge that unity within the squad.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
Arguably the greatest obstacle for the Socceroos heading into the World Cup is a lack of cohesion, due to such limited time with the same players on the field. Youthful exuberance will go some way to cover over this shortcoming, but there will no doubt come a time when structure will abandon them.
In more pragmatic terms, the issues that face Australia lie in the lack of depth in defence and the No. 10 role. Not that the nation was replete with world-class options in these positions in the first instance, but the absence of Good and Rogic really narrows the options available to coach Ange Postecoglou.
Anyone would be mad not to think Tim Cahill will be Australia's top goal scorer at this tournament. The players in the assembled squad have a combined goal tally of 59 strikes for their nation -- Cahill has netted 32 of those. But, go ahead, call me mad ...
If the past few months have shown us anything, it's that the Socceroos are in a new era. Feats of the past mean little as players scramble for their spot in the squad, and Tommy Oar, who has performed so consistently for FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie, surely has the best opportunity in his brief career to lead the way for his country. If he strikes with confidence, he could shine as Australia's brightest future prospect.
There are plenty of potential candidates for this role in Australia's star-starved squad. Oar has shown glimpses that he can lead the next generation of players, while Crystal Palace midfielder and Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak could use the World Cup to take yet another leap in his remarkable career rise.
Of all those who could shock in Brazil, though, Fortuna Dusseldorf flyer Ben Halloran and James Troisi of the Melbourne Victory immediately spring to mind. Halloran finished the season in Germany in fine goal-scoring form, while Troisi has been arguably one of the best Australian players over the past 12 months, though he needs a little more composure on the international stage to show his true potential.
PREDICTION: Early exit in group of death
It would take a brave person to suggest Postecoglou's young team will finish anywhere but fourth in a tough Group B that also features Spain, Netherlands and Chile, and, in truth, that may well be the case in the final wash-up. However, if there is one certainty about the Socceroos under Postecoglou, it is that they won't shy away from the challenge.
Australia will be full of running, and won't play with the slightest fear. A point or two could subsequently follow, which may not be enough to secure their passage to the knockout phase, but will fill them with belief ahead of next January's AFC Asian Cup.