After a 32-year absence from the world stage, Australia made a strong statement at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, reaching the knockout stage where it took a last-minute goal from eventual champions Italy to eliminate Guus Hiddink's team. The squad, now under another Dutchman, Pim Verbeek, features many of the Germany 2006 personnel and is a battle-hardened and experienced group.
Unlike four years ago when Australia qualified through via the Oceania zone, and finally a dramatic play-off against Uruguay, the preparation for the Socceroos this time is very different following a lengthy campaign across the length and breadth of Asia.
The road to South Africa
The Socceroos impressed in a 14-match Asian qualification campaign overcoming some of the continents best to finish top of Group 1 and be one of the first nations to reach South Africa 2010. Australia also finished top of the previous qualifying stage ahead of Qatar, China and Asian champions Iraq, despite losing matches to the latter two. The next and final stage proved a triumph for Pim Verbeek's tactical acumen as the Socceroos remained undefeated across eight matches, five points clear of Japan, with Bahrain, Qatar and Uzbekistan trailing well behind.
The star players
Undoubtedly Tim Cahill has become a talisman for the national team, with the attacking midfielder recording a remarkable goal return for the national team thanks to an uncanny positional sense and aerial ability. Galatasaray wide-man Harry Kewell ...