FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan investigates how Australia could go about in their quest for a fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance in four years’ time.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup may have only just ended but, given how this edition was widely hailed as the best ever, it is only natural that many are already looking ahead to Qatar in four years’ time.
For Asia, Russia 2018 also marked an important milestone given it not only marked the first time it had five representatives present on world football’s biggest stage, but Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Korea Republic also combined for the continent’s best-ever performance with a collective four wins and three draws.
As ever, the conclusion of the World Cup also brings about plenty of upheaval with several experienced names calling it a day after one final World Cup appearance, while many up-and-coming youngsters also use the tournament to establish themselves as genuine international stars.
The third in our “Looking ahead to the 2022 World Cup” series sees FOX Sports Asia take a closer look at how the Socceroos will cope in the post-Tim Cahill era.
What happened in Russia?
For the second tournament running, it was a disappointing World Cup for Australia but they at least avoided the ignominy of 2014 when they lost all three group games.
A commendable effort in a 2-1 loss to eventual champions France in their Group C opener was followed by a creditable 1-1 draw with Denmark.
But, with a spot in the knockout round still within reach, the Socceroos dished out their only disappointing display when it really mattered – losing 2-0 to already-eliminated Peru to bow out meekly with just a solitary point to their names.
Likely key departures (ages in 2022): Mark Milligan (36), Mile Jedinak (37), Tim Cahill (42)*
*Tim Cahill has already announced his retirement from international football.
Potential starting XI at next World Cup (ages in 2022)
GK: Mathew Ryan (30)
RB: Josh Risdon (29)
CB: Trent Sainsbury (30)
CB: Bailey Wright (29)
LB: Aziz Behich (31)
CM: Aaron Mooy (31)
CM: Massimo Luongo (25)
RW: Mathew Leckie (31)
AM: Tom Rogic (29)
LW: Daniel Arzani (23)
ST: Jamie Maclaren (28)
Up-and-coming prospects (ages in 2022): Daniel Arzani (23), Aleksandar Susnjar (26), Daniel De Silva (25)
Forecast for Qatar 2022
A significant chapter in Australian football history officially came to a close on Tuesday with the retirement from international football of the iconic Tim Cahill, who signs off with 50 goals in 107 caps.
Nonetheless, Australia had already been preparing for life without him given the supporting role he played in Russia and, remarkably, the Socceroos will only really be forced into two changes from this summer’s starting XI with Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak unlikely to be playing key roles – if they are even still around – in 2022.
The Australians have plenty of ready-made replacements for the duo and, as they reach the 28 to 32 age bracket, the likes of Aaron Mooy, Mathew Ryan, Mathew Leckie and Trent Sainsbury should all be at the peak of their powers, which actually bodes very well for Australia.
If all goes according to plan, hot prospect Daniel Arzani should also – by then – be a genuine star at the age of 23 and leading the wave of young talent that also includes centre-back Aleksandar Susnjar, playmaker Daniel De Silva and target man George Blackwood; the trio among those that impressed back in January’s AFC Under-23 Championship.