Socceroos v Chile: A bluffer’s guide

Want to impress your mates with your footy knowledge ahead of Australia’s opening World Cup clash with Chile? Then we have the answer.

World rankings?

Chile: 14

Australia: 62

Socceroo goalkeeper?

Barring injury, Mat Ryan is guaranteed to start in goal at the Arena Pantanal. The 22-year-old deservedly has the first opportunity to stake his claim as Mark Schwarzer's successor after following several impressive seasons at Central Coast with a stellar debut campaign for Club Brugge (winning Belgian keeper of the year in his first season!). Eugene Galekovic has just recovered from the flu, meaning Mitch Langerak is Ryan's likely replacement if disaster strikes before or during the game.

Socceroo defence?

The fullbacks are two of the players most assured of their places in this team. That means Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson will keep the berths they have held since Postecoglou's first friendly in charge against Costa Rica in November.

Matthew Spiranovic is Australia's best available centre-back and demonstrated his class with a solid outing against Croatia on Saturday morning. Alex Wikinson, still with only three caps under his belt at the age of 29, looked better in the 1-0 loss in Salvador than he did in the farewell draw against South Africa. He should start against Chile ahead of Ryan McGowan.

Socceroo midfield?

The biggest question yet to be answered as Australia's opening game approaches is will Ange Postecoglou risk starting Mark Bresciano? The veteran midfielder came on against Croatia and looked in good shape for a man who has had a reduced load in training as he sought to recover from a back issue.

Just in front of the 34-year-old Al Gharafa man in the engine room will be captain Mile Jedinak, who proved his fitness beyond question against Croatia, and Mark Milligan. The talented, energetic Melbourne Victory skipper is capable of getting the dirty work done but will also contribute going forward.

There is a huge onus on Milligan and Jedinak to win the ball and disrupt their opponents throughout the group stage, especially if the less energetic Bresciano alongside them.

Socceroo attack?

After experimenting with Tommy Oar as a central playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 against Croatia, Postecoglou will either shift the pacy Utrecht man back out wide or persist with the concept of using him as a lightning fast fulcrum of what is going to have be a counter-attacking forward line. Mathew Leckie will start on one of the two flanks, depending how Oar is used. Tim Cahill is certain to start at the central striker.

Much will depend on whether or not Bresciano starts. If he is on the bench, Postecoglou could be more likely to go with a 4-2-3-1 and keep Oar central, providing an opening to Ben Halloran or Dario Vidosic to feature.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, a 4-2-3-1 means four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders who also can defend when not in possession and one out and out striker.

Questions to ponder…

Will Bresciano start?

It's tough to know exactly where the 34-year-old is up to in his recovery from the back issue that cost him a place in the farewell friendly against South Africa and which has limited his training intensity since arriving in Brazil.

Ange Postecoglou declared him fit for selection ahead of the Croatia game and backed that up by bringing Bresciano on in the second half of the 1-0 loss in Bahia. He looked relatively sharp and a strong training week could yet see him named in the starting XI against Chile.

Which formation will Ange opt for?

The answer to this question is tied to the Bresciano issue. If the Al Gharafa midfielder starts, he will likely be the deepest member of the midfield trio in a 4-3-3. That means Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak will be deployed slightly in advance of him, with Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie wide left and wide right respectively and Tim Cahill up front.

If Bresciano isn't ready, Postecoglou is likely to opt for a 4-2-3-1. Jedinak and Milligan will hold the midfield, and it appears Tommy Oar is in pole position to play centrally behind the striker. Dario Vidosic started on the right and Leckie on the left against Croatia and would be likely to retain those spots, although Ben Halloran could still be a surprise starter ahead of Vidosic in a 4-2-3-1.

Can the Socceroos mount an attacking threat?

Australia struggled to create any meaningful chances against Croatia, who bore little resemblance in terms of intent or tactics to the Chile side the Socceroos will face on Friday. It will be a much faster, more intense contest in Cuiaba, with Jorge Sampaoli's men likely to throw themselves at their opponents and will potentially leave space at the back.

Quick balls over the top of the defence or in behind to release Leckie and Oar will be employed. If Australia succeed with that tactic, the wide men will be under orders to try and find the head or feet of Cahill with early crosses.

Did you know?

The two teams play in Cuiaba, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso located in the exact geographic centre of South America, an equidistant 2,000 km from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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