5 Australia players to watch at the World Cup

The Associated Press
5 Australia players to watch at the World Cup
.

View gallery

SYDNEY (AP) -- Australia will be returning for its third consecutive World Cup with its toughest assignment to date - Group B matches against defending champion Spain, 2010 finalist Netherlands and Chile.

Despite having a squad containing some new, inexperienced players, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is undaunted by the task facing him.

''If there is an opportunity there for us to create some headlines and shock the world, we'll take it,'' Postecoglou said.

Here are five players to watch:

---

TIM CAHILL

At 34 and playing in his third World Cup, midfielder Tim Cahill is expected to be the heart of the team in Brazil.

Cahill is the all-time leading scorer for the Socceroos with 31 goals, his last two coming in a friendly against Ecuador in London in March.

Playing at The Den, where Cahill started his career with Millwall, Australia led Ecuador 3-0 at halftime but lost 4-3 after goalkeeper Mitch Langerak was sent off in the second half.

Despite the disappointing result, Cahill could not hide his enthusiasm over the team's opening 45 minutes.

''The first half was some of the greatest football I've ever seen from the Socceroos, and I've been around for a long time,'' he said.

---

MILE JEDINAK

In a team mostly lacking in star power, 29-year-old midfielder Mile Jedinak holds the distinction of being Australia's only currently fit player involved regularly in the Premier League.

The Crystal Palace captain has made 43 appearances for Australia.

---

TOMMY OAR

Tommy Oar has moved quickly up the football ranks, joining the A-League's Brisbane Roar at the start of the 2008-09 season and being named the best young player in the country the following year.

The 22-year-old winger first played for Australia against Indonesia in 2010 but didn't make it to the World Cup in South Africa. His did score against Japan in a 1-1 draw in last year's qualifiers, however, keeping Australia on course for the World Cup.

Playing for FC Utrecht in the Netherlands gives Oar the advantage of seeing many of the Dutch players he'll face in the first round.

---

LUCAS NEILL

Lucas Neill may not even make it to Brazil for the World Cup, but the Doncaster defender has been a mainstay in the national team.

The 36-year-old Neill has recently fallen out of favor despite a stellar career which included 15 years playing in England. He also participated in the penalty shootout in the playoff win over Uruguay that earned Australia a spot at the 2006 World Cup.

Neill was heavily criticized in Australia's consecutive 6-0 losses to Brazil and France for his defensive lapses, although he's a big-occasion player who could help settle the squad in Brazil.

Neill, who was captain in 2013, wasn't included in the squad for the last friendly.

---

MATHEW RYAN

Mathew Ryan is the likely first choice to fill the big and well-worn shoes of Mark Schwarzer, who turned down a chance to play at a third World Cup when he retired from international football in November.

The 21-year-old Ryan moved from the A-League last year to Club Brugge in Belgium, where he has improved under the tutelage of Michel Preud'homme.

Ryan played solidly in a friendly win over Costa Rica and kept a clean sheet in the first half of the friendly against Ecuador in London when the Socceroos led 3-0 in the first 45 minutes. His replacement, Mitch Langerak, was red-carded early in the second half for a crude tackle, and Australia lost 4-3.

That could be the deciding factor in who gets the No. 1 jersey in Brazil.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.
    • Ivory Coast must win next game to stay in Nations Cup

      By Mark Gleeson LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Holders Ivory Coast will have to win their last group game at the African Nations Cup if they are to continue their title defence after being held again on Friday. The Ivorians twice came from behind to draw … More »

      Reuters - 2 hours 11 minutes ago
    • Another draw leaves holders Ivory Coast in peril

      Ivory Coast's hopes of defending their African Nations Cup title suffered a setback after they had to settle for 2-2 draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday. Following a goalless draw with Togo in their opening match, Friday's result … More »

      Reuters - 2 hours 19 minutes ago
    • Mane helps Senegal reach last eight with Zimbabwe win

      Senegal qualified for the African Nations Cup quarter-finals by beating Zimbabwe 2-0 with early goals from Sadio Mane and Henri Saivet in their Group B encounter on Thursday. Mane, the continent's most expensive player after his 35 million pounds … More »

      Reuters - 2 hours 21 minutes ago
    • Algeria on the brink after 2-1 defeat to Tunisia

      Two defensive howlers left Algeria on the brink of elimination from the African Nations Cup as they lost 2-1 to neighbours Tunisia on Thursday in their second Group B match in Gabon. Captain Aissa Mandi scored an own goal and Napoli defender Faouzi … More »

      Reuters - 2 hours 23 minutes ago
    • Ghana eye place in knockout round

      By Mark Gleeson LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - A second successive win in Group D for Ghana will see them through to the knockout phase of the African Nations Cup but Saturday's opponents Mali have proved something of a bogey team at previous tournaments. … More »

      Reuters - 3 hours ago