The Full 90

2010 World Cup Preview: Australia

In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]

With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.

The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:

Anger
awe
boredom depression
disgust embarrassment euphoria
frustration guilt misery pride rage
surprise

. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.

To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.

Some people may call the Brazil-Portugal-Ivory Coast group the Group of Death. It isn't. This group is, and it starts with Australia.

Australia

Group D THE BASICS

Nickname:

Colors:

FIFA Ranking:

How They Got Here:

World Cup Pedigree:

2 World Cups ('74, '06), lost in the knock-out phase in '06.

THE PLOT

Can the sequel to 2006's magical run ignite the same kind of passion and excitement in a country where soccer isn't amongst the top three sports?

THE DIRECTOR

Pim Verbeek

A disciple of mercenary coach Guus Hiddink (the world's greatest national team coach), Verbeek stresses defense and organization and fitness over everything else. Much like Bruce Arena did with the U.S., Verbeek favors European-based players ahead of national-league players (only two made the preliminary roster). Can he find the same angles Hiddink found in guiding the Socceroos to within a controversial penalty call from beating eventual champions Italy in '06?

LEADING MAN

Mark Bresciano

A solid attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, Bresciano is the most talented player in the Australian player pool and recently transferred from Italian side Palermo to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia. He will need to bring his goal-scoring boots to South Africa, as it is the one area that the Socceroos are woefully short. Very dangerous on set pieces.

SUPPORTING CAST

Tim Cahill Lucas Neil Mark Schwarzer Brett Emerton

(midfielder, Blackburn) is another useful midfielder who has the ability to score goals (17 in 72 national team games).

LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR

Dario Vidosic

Born in Croatian and playing professionally for FC Nuremberg in Germany, Vidosic could very well be the solution to the Socceroos scoring issues.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Joshua Kennedy

Australia will struggle to score goals, which is a problem that the man nicknamed "Jesus" shouldn't be able to save them from. The striker, who plays for Nagoya Grampus in Japan, once went 27 games without scoring a goal. Might be the Aussies Achilles heel.

PRODUCTION NOTES

Verbeek likes himself some defensive football and will most likely set-up in a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders and Bresciano joining the lone striker when attacking.

WHAT THEY'LL WEAR

IT'S SORTA LIKE...

"Endless Summer 2"

In '06, the country rode a gnarly wave (of euphoria). In '10, they'll try to hang ten on that same wave.

TRAILER

DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...

Australia ranks second in the world in pet fish per capita, only trailing Sweden.

CRITICAL BLURBS

Best-case scenario? Realistic prediction?

A Mexican standoff in the standings: All four teams in the group finish with a win, draw and loss. Germany and Ghana advance on goal differential.

POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT

Unlike most other British colonies, Australia broke free of the empire peacefully in 1931 and remained supportive of the empire ever since. On June 26, in Rustenberg, that could change. A second-place finish in the group could draw England (if they win Group C). And, pleasantries aside, you have to think the Aussies might be a little more up for this game than for any other game in their history.


Group A: South Africa Uruguay Mexico France

Group B: South Korea Greece Nigeria

Group C: Algeria Slovenia USA England

Group D:

Group E:

Group F:

Group G:

Group H:

Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain


Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook
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