While Australia is engulfed in a tough battle for World Cup qualification, which is by no means certain yet, in little over six months the team will be back on the world stage in FIFA’s next major international tournament.
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup kicks off on June 17 in St Petersburg, the eight-team event ending on July 2 in the same city.
The other three cities being used for the tournament are the capital, Moscow, Kazan in central Russia and Sochi in the south, on the shores of the Black Sea.
Ange Postecoglou, the FFA and we fans, will be keeping an intense eye on the draw which takes place on November 26, this coming weekend.
The Confeds Cup is a contest between the champions of each of FIFA’s six continental confederations plus the World Cup holder and the host.
Seven nations have qualified so far: Russia (hosts), Germany (World Cup holder), Portugal (UEFA), Chile (COMNEBOL), Mexico (CONCACAF), Australia (AFC) and New Zealand (OFC). The eighth team will be the winner of the African Cup of Nations to be played in Gabon in January.
This is a tough tournament and always has been. The concentrated quality and technical strength are high. Wherever you are drawn you will be in a group of death.
The draw procedure has just been released by FIFA. The host nation and the three highest-placed teams on the FIFA rankings will go into Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Chile and Portugal. Pot 2 will contain Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and the African champion.
Pot 1 will be emptied first with Russia automatically drawn into Group A along with one other team from Pot 1. The two teams left in the pot will go into Group B.
Pot 2 will then be emptied with the four teams split into Groups A and B.
So Australia, hypothetically, could end up in a group with Germany, Chile and, say, Ivory Coast.
Not easy by any means but the Socceroos should not be overawed. Australia have a decent Confeds Cup record, having qualified for it three times.
In 1997 they made the final after beating Mexico and Uruguay and drawing with Brazil. They then lost the final heavily to the favoured Brazilians after Mark Viduka was red-carded early in the game.
In 2001 Australia finished in third place after beating Mexico and then world champions France. As losing semi-finalists they beat Brazil in the third-place playoff, which caused the sacking of Brazil’s coach Emerson Leao.
In 2005 the Socceroos were eliminated in the group stage after losing to Germany, Argentina and Tunisia, leading to the sacking of national coach Frank Farina.
Postecoglou, who will be in Kazan for the draw, will be up-beat no matter whom Australia get in their group. That is his nature and that is what he was after the horror draw Australia got for the 2014 World Cup. Although Australia lost all three of their group matches to Chile, the Netherlands and Spain, their courageous performances in taking the game to their opponents were commended.
The Confeds Cup is a great opportunity for Australia and the reward for winning the Asian Cup in 2015. Serious prizemoney will be on offer. Australia’s upcoming games, whether World Cup qualifiers or friendlies, should be used as thorough preparation for this grand event.