As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 15 days to the big kick-off it is the turn of Australia.


One should probably start this off by saying a Fox Sport Australia commentator roaring about the ever-lasting abilities of "Timmy Cahill" will convert any man to the Socceroos before the written word.

It, like the mighty leap of the dynamic 38-year-old, is a smile-inducing wonderment of the game Down Under.

Somehow the 105-cap veteran is still making a big impact, as his goals against Syria in a play-off game on the way to qualification showed, and he could join the four World Cups club in this tournament.

There are certain things that appeal about Australia. The English Premier League is a commercial beast that threatens every domestic landscape, and the Aussies are no different. A quick check on Youtube will show you 95,000 fans dressed in red singing "You’ll Never Walk Alone"  in the Melbourne Cricket Ground not so long ago.

But unlike other nations, possibly our own, it does not define them. They also have to battle against other traditions and a native sport that makes it difficult to establish their own teams and players as stars.

Their biggest names are those that ply their trade in England or have done at some point, which of course is common sense, but they can boast up to 12 different leagues that their players compete in among their 27-man preliminary World Cup squad.

From Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Japan, Scotland and Switzerland, the list just keeps going, and among it also sees four players from their growing ‘A League’.

The true football addict knows not only the joys of the top division of Australia, but even the FFA Cup, which is their equivalent of the FA/FAI Cup here, thanks to the broadcasting deal which shows it on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings here.

While you could be watching Sky Sports News giving the latest tattoo update on Raheem Sterling,  Adam Peacock and Simon Hill  have been waxing lyrical about how Dimitri Petratos has turned the Newcastle Jets from strugglers to near grand final winners. Crowds are rising, quality is increasing and it's a very competitive division. 

Robbie Kruse missed out on the World Cup last time because of injury when he had a brilliant Asian Cup and is certainly a man to look out for. He can provide the assists for one last Cahill leap – although it’s going to be difficult with France and Denmark in their group.

Australian captain Mile Jedinak celebrates his hat-trick against Honduras alongside Robbie Kruse

It would be remiss to miss out on one last Irish link. James Meredith, a late bloomer, has flourished in the Championship with Millwall this season. He had a spell at Sligo Rovers early in his career when desperately searching for a chance after frustration at Derby County.

Lions fans have watched on with pride this season as he made the step up from Bradford after being named in the League 1 team of the year.

Now the World Cup is on the horizon for a man that found himself without a club for months.

He said of his time in the SSE Airtricity League on "I don’t know how I ended up in Ireland in terms of the connection but I really enjoyed my time in Sligo. That was a lot of fun and good experience. It was my first proper experience of regular first-team football. It was a bit different.

"Paul Cook was the manager and he’s gone on to do really well, I got on with him. Sligo did quite well that year as well. It was a different kind of culture, you could have a beer after training, that was accepted. It helps you relax."

The handful of appearances ended without a club again and back at digs that he started his career at, with no money coming in.

Eventually, the sacrifices and hard work paid off as he made his way back up the English divisions.

And if Australia can get through the group and even secure a best-ever finish which currently stands at last-16, then maybe the culture of having a grog after training will return again for Meredith and his team-mates.

Goalkeepers: Brad Jones (Feyenoord), Mat Ryan (Brighton), Danny Vukovic (Genk).

Defenders: Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Milos Degenek (Yokohama F. Marinos), Matthew Jurman (Suwon Samsung Blue Wings), James Meredith (Millwall), Josh Risdon (Western Sydney), Trent Sainsbury (Grasshopper Zurich).

Midfielders: Jackson Irvine (Hull City), Mile Jedinak (Aston Villa), Robbie Kruse (VfL Bochum), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Mark Milligan (Al-Ahli), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Tom Rogic (Celtic), Tim Cahill (Millwall).

Forwards: Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (Luzern), Mathew Leckie (Hertha Berlin), Andrew Nabbout (Urawa Red Diamonds), Dimitri Petratos (Newcastle Jets), Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian).

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.