We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.
Appearance: Third overall, second consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost to Italy in second round
Best performance: Second round (2006)
The Socceroos are back, thanks to an impressive run through an admittedly weak Asian region (they used to play in the Oceania group, but have transferred, and the move -- in part in search for better competition in qualifying -- appears to be generally a wash at this point). One area they do not lack is experience. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer is close to 40, but has put together another good season for Fulham of the Premier League, and he is capable of helping shut out anyone in this tournament, even powerful Group D favorite Germany.
The Aussies rode Schwarzer to a surprising second-round berth in 2006, and only a controversial penalty kick call against eventual champion Italy sank them. He's still a good goalkeeper, despite his age, and he is the type of player who makes defenders better, if for no other reason than they know he's there for them if they make a mistake.
Everton's Tim Cahill is another 30-plus player the Aussies will lean heavily on. Cahill is a shorter midfielder, but is quick and very good at getting to balls in the air. He will be a handful on crosses and set pieces, especially during a short tournament.
Australia can defend, and they're capable of pulling out draws against anyone in this group. They should be good enough to beat Serbia, and they might be able to beat Ghana. If Schwarzer and the defense can slow down Germany, Australia could pull off another surprise advance to Round 2.
June 13 vs. Germany (Durban)
June 19 vs. Ghana (Rustenburg)
June 23 vs. Serbia (Nelspruit)