Australia World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections
Pictured: Aaron Mooy.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network's staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating.
Read on for a full breakdown of Australia ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.
Australia World Cup Preview
The Socceroos come into the World Cup by winning not one, but two playoffs against the United Arab Emirates and then against Peru. Australia finished third in their World Cup qualifying group behind Saudi Arabia and Japan, but looking at the underlying numbers, they were actually on par with Saudi Arabia.
Through their 12 matches of Third Round World Cup Qualifying, along with their two playoff matches, Australia were at a +0.27 xGD per 90 minutes, which really isn’t that impressive considering the average Action Network ranking of their opponent was 76. The two matches against Japan were a good test to see if they would be able to hang with either France or Denmark in this group, and they did not pass that test whatsoever. Japan thoroughly dominated them on xG 3.96 to 2.38 over the two meetings and won both matches as well.
|Chances To…||Action Projections||bet365 Odds|
|Win Group Stage||1.78%||+1400|
|Advance To Knockout Round||10.15%||+300|
|Win World Cup||0.01%||+35000|
|Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.|
In terms of roster talent, Australia are near the bottom of the list with nobody really of note playing in one of the top leagues in Europe. They do have some names people might recognize like former Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy, who is currently playing with Scottish giants Celtic, and former Brighton goalkeeper Matt Ryan, who is currently playing for FC Copenhagen in the Danish Superliga.
The World Cup will be nothing new to this Australian team, as a lot of their players were on the squad when they played in 2018 in Russia. What was interesting about that World Cup is they were in a group with France, Denmark and Peru. They have both France and Denmark in their group this time, and they beat Peru by way of the playoff to get into this World Cup.
In 2018, they lost to France 2-1 but were actually tied with them until conceding an own goal; then, they drew Denmark 1-1 with an xG edge. So, if you are looking for a path for Australia getting to the Round of 16, they will likely have to put two heroic performances against France and Denmark, just like they did in 2018, and then beat Tunisia.
Key Player: Aaron Mooy
Mooy has been Australia’s go-to creator in the midfield for a long time now. The 31-year-old spent three seasons in total and two in the Premier League with Huddersfield, scoring seven goals and dishing out four assists in those two seasons. He spent two seasons in China playing for Shanghai SIPG and was in the 90th percentile for goal contributions, shots per 90 minutes, progressive carries and touches in the penalty area in the Chinese Super League. He recently just made a move to Celtic in the Scottish Premier League and has only played five full 90s, but Mooy has already dished out three assists.
During World Cup Qualifying he was the main midfielder, progressing the ball up the pitch and supplying the front line, just like he did at Shanghai SIPG and has done with Celtic this season.
With Celtic in the Champions League he only played one full 90 minute match, but Mooy was very impressive against Shakhtar. He recorded 49 touches in the opponent's final third, had a 0.27 xG + xAssist rate per 90 minutes and had seven progressive passes.
Mooy is also a true box-to-box midfielder who will likely be occupying a double pivot in the midfield. He’s got great range as a passer, is comfortable under pressure with the ball at his feet and has excellent vision.
He will be a major key for Australia in the middle going up against the elite midfields of France and Denmark.
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Graham Arnold took over the Australian national team after their group stage exit at the World Cup. Under Arnold, Australia play out of either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation with a slow, intricate style, almost always playing out from the back. Matt Ryan is a very capable goalkeeper with his feet, so the Socceroos will normally drop six players with the full backs and two central midfielders occupying the space in between the first line of the opponent's attack. This allows Ryan to play over the top to the full backs who can begin to progress the ball up the field.
When Australia are in possession, their formation almost becomes a 2-3-5, with the two attacking midfielders pushing up the pitch and creating overloads between the opponent’s defensive line. The Aussie center backs, along with Mooy, are very capable at playing long balls up the pitch, so if you’re facing Australia, you better be ready to win some aerial duels. Outside of that, Australia are very reliant on Mooy to dictate the tempo of the match and to progress the ball into the final third.
Out of possession, Australia drop back into a 4-4-2, with two low blocks. The two front strikers will often press the opposing center back individually, but the reality is Australia don’t really press their opponents as a team, high up the pitch. They also have their full back man-mark the opposing winger, which works against low tier competition, but it did not work against Japan, who picked them apart, creating 3.9 xG over the two meetings. So, we’ll see if Arnold sticks with that method for the World Cup.
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Australia World Cup Schedule
|France||2 p.m. ET, Nov. 22|
|Tunisia||5 a.m. ET, Nov. 26|
|Denmark||10 a.m. ET, Nov. 30|
Most Recent World Cup Result
Fourth Place, Group Stage (2018)
Australia were only able to earn one point in the 2018 World Cup group stage, drawing Denmark but falling to Peru and France. The result was a last place finish in Group C.