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  1. Soccer

Australian Football: Australia at the World Cup

The Socceroos have booked their place in the World Cup Finals with a thrilling play-off win over Peru and now all focus can turn to preparations for Qatar later this year.

What: 2022 FIFA World Cup Finals
Where: Qatar
When: 21st November to 18th December
Odds: Brazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Spain 8/1, Argentina 8/1, Germany 11/1.

Australia have defied the odds to make it through to the World Cup finals after they defeated Peru 5-4 on penalties.
Not many outside of the Australian camp had given Graham Arnold’s men a chance. They were up against a Peru side that were ranked 22 in world football but showed that courage and heart can take you a long way.

The Socceroos have had to play in 20 World Cup qualifiers, only four of them have been on Aussie soil, so it is no surprise that Arnold says qualifying for this World Cup has to go down as “one of the greatest achievements ever”.

Arnold has even called for new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to declare a public holiday to allow the nation to celebrate.
That is unlikely to happen but the magnitude of the achievement should not be played down. Of course, this is not the first time that Australia have made the World Cup.

Indeed they have now qualified for five tournaments on the bounce. This latest one will be extra sweet though as they have done it against all odds.

They looked on course to qualify through the group stage after initially dominating Group B. They were sitting pretty at the top of the pile but a horror run of form saw them slip to third place on the ladder.

Saudi Arabia and Japan took the top two spots and the Socceroos had to go into the play-offs where they would have to first of all get past the UAE and then Peru.

Even the most optimistic Aussie felt it would be a tall order but they have done it and are heading to Qatar.
So the question now is, how well will the Socceroos go at the World Cup? They are priced at 250/1 to win the World Cup.
 

Graham Arnold at the helm

After the Socceroos failed to qualify via the group stages many suggested that Arnold should be replaced ahead of the play-offs.

The feeling being that Arnold may have run out of ideas, lost the dressing room etc and it would make sense to bring someone else in to galvanise the troops and increase the chances of qualification.

Well how he proved the doubters wrong and it was a masterstroke by the former Sydney FC boss that proved crucial against Peru.

With the game heading for penalties Arnold decided to swap his goalkeepers! Off came Mat Ryan and on came Andrew Redmayne.

Redmayne had just three Socceroos caps to his name and it was a huge gamble, but one that paid off!

Arnold later explained that Redmayne is an excellent penalty saver, but not only that the Socceroos boss thought the switch would get into the minds of the Peru players.

If it did, we may never know. But the switch worked. Redmayne made the crucial save and Australia progress.

Arnold has proven he has the dressing room and it will take similar team spirit for them to go well and upset the odds again in Qatar.

But he has more than earned the opportunity to lead them on the next challenge.

Players to watch

Key to Australia going well in the World Cup will be having all their key players fit and available.
That was not the case for the vast majority of qualifying and again makes their progression even more impressive.

Star forward Tom Rogic pulled out of the play-offs due to personal reasons. Even Arnold was not privy to the exact nature of the problem but will be hoping he is good to go for Qatar.

Rogic has to find himself a new club after leaving Celtic at the end of last season and the Socceroos will be hoping he is fit, settled and playing good football.

Ajdin Hrustic is also key for the Socceroos. The attacking midfielder is used to the big stage having won the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt this season. He kept his cool to slot one of the penalties in the shoot-out win over Rangers.
The 25-year-old also scored the winning goal in the 2-1 play-off win over the UAE and will be a big player out in Qatar.

Mathew Leckie will be relied upon to get among the goals in Qatar. The striker is currently the leading goalscorer in the squad with 13.

The 31-year-old has just returned to Australia following a four-year spell in Germany with Hertha Berlin.
He is on the books of Melbourne City right now and bagged nine goals in 23 appearances last season.

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