Shocking Socceroos to suffer World Cup woes

SchwarzerPlaying The Long Ball continues to count down to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil by analysing another exotic market, this time turning its attention to betting on the team that concedes the highest number of goals during the tournament.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil side that catches one’s eye in the market on the highest number of goals conceded is Australia, with the Socceroos trading at odds of 6.50 with 888sport and Unibet. Generally speaking, bookmakers rate only Iran above Australia in this particular exotic market, although one is not sure why the Iranians are available at shorter odds than the Socceroos for any number of reasons.

Drawn alongside the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa winner and runner-up, Spain and the Netherlands respectively, and having to tackle South American dark horse Chile as well, Australia will require a miracle to get out of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B and into the last 16. Australia’s golden generation that made it through to the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany has almost gone and the new wave of Socceroos players are nowhere near as good.

Australia qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil by virtue of finishing second to Japan in AFC Group B. There was not much to choose between Australia and Jordan in the fight for second place and Jordan eventually bowed out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualification race 0-5 on aggregate to Uruguay. The form of Australia’s road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is not working out very well.

Back-to-back 6-0 away losses – the first to Brazil and the second to France – saw Australia sack German coach Holger Osieck and install its country’s brightest young manager, Ange Postecoglou. Australia’s governing body has made the correct appointment – the Brisbane team that Postecoglou built was the best ever to play in the country’s domestic league – but the former Socceroos defender does not have the talent with which to work the oracle on the global stage.

Australia is short of world-class players all over the pitch but particularly in defence. Postecoglou has yet to settle upon Mark Schwarzer’s successor between the post, although one suspects that Mathew Ryan of Club Brugge will get the gig for Australia’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B opener against Chile. Ryan has been playing well for his Belgian Pro League side but this time last year he was turning out for Central Coast in the Australia A-League. Moreover, so sparse are Australia’s defending stocks that one cannot rule out the possibility of Lucas Neill, the 36-year-old veteran who has not played regular football since 2012, starting versus Chile in central defence.

Earlier this month, Australia played Ecuador at The Den in London. Australia raced into a 3-0 lead but capitulating to a 3-4 loss against an Ecuador team who struggled away from its high-altitude home during the CONMEBOL qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. We tipped this one. One could hear the alarm bells ringing from the United Kingdom all the way back in Australia so terrible did the Socceroos defend their lead.

Chile, the Netherlands and Spain will each view as their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group B match against Australia as one demanding a wide-margin win. That and Postecoglou’s attacking mindset – he will not want to cop the same flak that Australia’s 2010 FIFA World Cup Germany coach, Pim Verbeek, attracted for playing defensively – are likely to produce high-scoring games in which the Socceroos end up on the wrong end of a belting or three. Ryan may have a sore back from bending down to retrieve the ball from his net.

Brazil conceded the highest number of goals in the 1998 FIFA World Cup France and it made the final. However, Saudi Arabia (2002 FIFA World Cup Korea and Japan), Serbia and Montenegro (2006 FIFA World Cup Germany) and North Korea (2010 FIFA World Cup Germany) have been the leakiest sides at the last three tournaments as the gap between the best and the worst teams has widened due to the increase in the number of participants. And, according to the FIFA World Ranking, of the 32 sides set to play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, only South Korea is rated inferior to Australia.

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