Australia is back in its third successive World Cup after a very disappointing Asian Football Confederation group run saw them need to beat a similarly disappointing CONCAF team. Everyone thought it would be the USA except the USA's players and Australia managed to perform really well against Honduras to book our spot. The Socceroos - an abhorrent nickname that comes, like many of these things, from a noble background when a journalist used the name in our dry, self-deprecating style at the end of the Vietnam war without sensing it'd be a name of self-mockery that slowly got accepted and endorsed and now drags us down everywhere we go - find themselves in Group C with Tournament favourites France, and similarly skilled nations Peru and Denmark. Australia recently saw their longtime, local National Coach Ange Postecoglu, a grumpy, boring old jerk retire. We hired Dutch wundercoach Bert van Marwijk for the World Cup. It's a short term appointment, which is how both parties like it; the national coach after the world cup will be... local National Coach Graham Arnold, a grumpy, boring jerk. The team is full of roleplayers and marginal stars. The old Austraia under Ange tried to play European high intensity possession football on the ground and out of the back with our wingbacks expected to work up the field. It worked for Australia recently when we won the Asian Cup (defeating Korea convincingly in the Final) but hasn't since, and the players we have don't lend themselves to that style. Worse, the philosophy tended to ignore our place in the football world... trying to play against France at all will be difficult, but trying to play possession football would have seen us carved up, just like when we tried the same thing and were just edged out, 25-1, by Germany at the last World Cup. What's nice about a short-stay coach is there's absolutely no pressure on Bert to give a flying fuck about the future; he cares about his CV at this World Cup, and that's it. He immediately instituted a style better suited to the players we have, and has spoken pragmatically about our approach; we're playing 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 depending on how you look at the wingers and wingbacks, whose pushing needs to balance getting back and maintaining a solid structure. Under Bert we've played two recent friendlies; a convincing 4-0 drubbing of Croatia and an uninspiring 2-1 win over Hungary where both teams knocked in an own-goal. Highlights on the pitch include: Tim Cahill was one of the world's better footballers and produced a goal-of-the-competition contender last World Cup against Bert van Marwijk's dutch team, but this is his 4th World Cup, he's 39 and spent the last few months riding the bench at Millwall. He won't start and he won't expect to but he's a tireless player whose FIFA heading skill should be 99 and his late insertion into games off the bench will expect to produce spark and fire. Tom Rogic is a Celtic star who roves across the 10 role behind the front man. He's silky smooth and the ball is glued to his foot as he's more than capable of gliding from the 50 to the top of the box drawing and leaving defenders all around him, with a killer strike outside the box and the ability to slide a pass into space for a striker. He can go quiet in games when boxed out and he's not a world level star but, for instance, his rambling run drew an inevitable slashing kick from Honduras just outside the box and lead to the first goal we needed to qualify. Aaron Mooy is the other midfielder of talent on our side, an anchor in the deep midfield with vision, work, passing, and drive. He is a certainty to play the entire World Cup if not bothered by injury. Again, not a World Class star (we don't have any), he is the captain of Huddersfield. Mooy takes our corners and is very good at long free kicks. Mile Jedinak is our, and Aston Villa's, Captain. He has also traditionally owned a deep midfield role, but he's been hurt and missed the first friendly before coming on late in the second. When he came on, the substitute captain tried to give him the armband but was waved off by Bert. Massimo Luongo has been starting in the other deep midfield role under Bert and there's growing speculation Jedinak won't be featuring much in Russia. Jedinak takes our direct free kicks and penalties, and scored the highlight one against Honduras from just outside the box that broke open the floodgates and booked our flight to Putintown. Massimo Luongo is a solid midfield mainstay for Queens Park Rangers, and was the star of the Asian Cup win. He plays differently to Mooy and Jedinak, able to push into a hole between Mooy and Rogic. He's been quiet since his big role in the AFC but is also a threat from outside the box and a good final passer of the ball. Our wingers run quickly up and down the sidelines and throw in crosses that are effective around 70 per cent of the time; lower tier Bundesliga players Matt Leckie (Hertha BSC) and Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum) are fast and attacking and offer little in defence, rarely venturing into the centre of the pitch. You could suggest Leckie will be our top goalscorer of the tournament and you may be right, which won't be great. He spends a lot of time in the box and makes us very counterable; Kruse is an enigma who seemed to have all the talent, but he's most often viewed looking pained after shanking a cross, sending a free header wide or missing the goal entirely on a shot. However, exciting young Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City FC) - the youngest player in the whole World Cup this year, at 19 - scored against Hungary off the bench and shows promise and poise and potential to be Australia's next great player. Born in Iran, getting him to the WC had as much to do with keeping him in the Green and Gold as anything else but he's done nothing but excite. Arzani is likely to start at least one game and hopefully more. Australia's defence is best described as hard working, panicked, desperate, and nail-biting. A range of players, lead by stand-in and possible new permanent captain Trent Sainsbury (Grasshoppers) will try not to rock the boat. Under Bert they're not being asked to bring the ball up, rather just plonk it downfield. Right back Josh Risdon (Western Sydney Wanderers) shows sparks of excitement after a shock inclusion. Up front, we've got nothing until Cahill comes on. Jamie McLaren (Hibernian) has toiled hard and showed great form at the end of the SPFL (including a fucking awesome hat trick against the Hun Scum) but plays in a more structured 4-4-2 as a supportive poacher under Neil Lennon rather than a holding role up front under Bert. Shock inclusion Andrew Nabbout has looked fantastic (against expectations) up front after a rise domestically led to a 'big money' (for the A League) move to Japanese giants Urawa Red Diamonds, and will start until he loses his spot. He scored a great solo effort against very experienced Croatian defenders. In goals, Australia can be expected to trot out one of a trio of adequate Keepers, probably firstly Matty Ryan (Brighton Hove and Albion), then Brad Jones (Feyenoord) and Danny Vukovic (Genk). Australia can expect to finish no higher than 2nd, and will likely lose by several goals to France in the opening match. However, Peru and Denmark are of a similar quality. Australia's aims would be to draw one of those and win another, it doesn't matter who, while France pounded the other team into submission, and sneak into the Group stages in second. Joe Mourinho thinks that's what will happen, and while it's best-case-scenario it's also not completely out of the realm of possibility. But, neither are three losses. In all honesty, even making this World Cup was a success for Australia after a lacklustre Asian Confed run. We're bereft of star power but have a strong midfield and an experienced coach. Things to watch - Jedinak losing his captaincy and starting role to Luongo, Arzani starting out wide, who plays up front, and whether we panic after losing 8-0 to France and throw it all away.