Spain will face Australia in the final Group B game in Curitiba, hoping that their passage to the knockout stages has already been processed. In the first profile of the three teams in Group B, La Liga Blog takes a look at whether the Socceroos can cause any trouble for the reigning World Champions.
FIFA Ranking: 56
Previous World Cups: 2006, 2010
Best Finish: Round of 16, 2006
13/6 Chile, Cuiaba. 11pm ITV
18/6 Netherlands, Porto Alegre. 5pm ITV
23/6 Spain, Curitiba. 5pm ITV
Australia qualified for the World Cup by finishing second in their group, behind Japan, yet found the qualification tough early on. Draws with Oman and Japan preceded a shock defeat to Jordan as their chances of reaching Brazil began to fade.
However, wins over Iraq (twice) and Jordan helped Australia qualify, but the underwhelming displays helped lead to the dismissal of coach Holger Osieck in October. Friendly defeats to Brazil and France, each ending 6-0, and Osieck’s continued faith in the experienced players from previous World Cups led to his sacking.
Ange Postecoglou has taken over since, but already suffered embarrassment during a friendly encounter with Ecuador. Australia raced into a 3-0 lead in London but were unable to quell a spirited fightback from the South Americans, who eventually won 4-3.
Despite these disappointments, there is little pressure on the lowest ranked team in the tournament, especially as they were placed in a group containing the finalists from 2010 and highly-rated Chile. Anything but three convincing defeats will be a positive for Postecoglou and his younger players, who, like England, will be primed for a better crack at a tournament in the near future.
In trying to maintain their dignity, Australia will surely attempt to play defensively against all three teams in Group B. These will be situations captain Mile Jedinak will relish, having impressed with Crystal Palace this season. The midfielder, 29, achieved the highest number of interceptions across the top 5 European leagues this season and is a dominant force on the floor and in the air. His role will be to break up the intricate passes in the Spain and Netherlands midfield and drive Australia out of their defensive half.
Jedinak will hopefully have recovered from injury by the tournament opener against Chile and will have his sights set on frustrating the Spanish playmakers. Tim Cahill is in the squad and has the ability to hurt top opponents with his everlasting quality in attacking areas. The former Everton man is an expert header of the ball and can emerge from deep to create and score vital chances. Spain will have to keep an eye on him on the odd occasions when Australia venture forwards.
Threat to Spain
As mentioned previously, Australia will be playing for pride so will put in a determined performance across the pitch. At a World Cup, the players will be desperate to gain any sort of result and will probably look to hold out for a draw with 11 men behind the ball. Jedinak will be a constant menace by breaking up play so Spain should opt to increase the tempo and end up scoring a bundle like France and Brazil managed.
Squad (4 to be cut)
GK: Mark Birighitti (Newcastle Jets), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United), Mitchell Langerak (Borussia Dortmund), Mat Ryan (Club Brugge).
DF: Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar), Ryan McGowan (Shandong Luneng Taishan), Matthew Spiranovic (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alex Wilkinson (Jeonbuk Hyundai), Luke Wilkshire (Dinamo Moscow), Bailey Wright (Preston North End).
MF: Oliver Bozanic (Luzern), Mark Bresciano (Al Gharafa), James Holland (Austria Vienna), Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Massimo Luongo (Swindon Town), Matthew McKay (Brisbane Roar), Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory), Tommy Oar (Utrecht), Tommy Rogic (Melbourne Victory), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Dario Vidosic (Sion).
FW: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus 8), Matthew Leckie (FSV Frankfurt 1899), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets).
26/5/14 Australia 1-1 South Africa (Cahill)
5/3/14 Australia 3-4 Ecuador (Cahill x2, Jedinak)
19/11/13 Australia 1-0 Costa Rica (Cahill)
Odds to win tournament: 1000/1
Odds to beat Spain: 8/1 (SkyBet)