Goal Australia predicts the starting XI for the eagerly anticipated match at the Arena Pantanal, with the readiness of Mark Bresciano surely the biggest unknown
Having watched Ange Postecoglou pick a variety of different players and experiment with his formations in the recent friendly internationals, which 11 players will the head coach send out against Jorge Sampaoli's side in Cuiaba?
Barring injury, Mat Ryan is guaranteed to start in goal at the Arena Pantanal. The 22-year-old deservedly has the first opportunity to stake his claim as Mark Schwarzer's successor after following several impressive seasons at Central Coast with a stellar debut campaign for Club Brugge. Eugene Galekovic has just recovered from the flu, meaning Mitch Langerak is Ryan's likely replacment if disaster strikes before or during the game.
The fullbacks are two of the players most assured of their places in this team, with no ready-made replacement at right or left-back. That means Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson will keep the berths they have held since Postecoglou's first friendly in charge against Costa Rica in November.
Matthew Spiranovic is Australia's best available centre-back and demonstrated his class with a solid outing against Croatia on Saturday morning. Alex Wikinson, still with only three caps under his belt at the age of 29, looked better in the 1-0 loss in Bahia than he did in the farewell draw against South Africa. He will start against Chile ahead of Ryan McGowan.
The biggest question yet to be answered as Australia's opening game approaches is will Ange Postecoglou risk starting Mark Bresciano? The veteran midfielder came on against Croatia and looked in good shape for a man who has had a reduced load in training as he sought to recover from a back issue. If the 34-year-old is deemed ready to start, he will likely anchor the midfield, schielding the back four and attempting to start moves off.
Ahead of him will be captain Mile Jedinak, who proved his fitness beyond question against Croatia, and Mark Milligan. The talented, energetic Melbourne Victory skipper is capable of getting the dirty work done but will also contribute going forward. There is a huge onus on Milligan and Jedinak to win the ball and disrupt their opponents throughout the group stage, especially if the less energetic Bresciano starts alongside them.
After experimenting with Tommy Oar as a central playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 against Croatia, Postecoglou will either shift the pacy Utrecht man back out wide or persist with the concept of using him as a lightning fast fulcrum of what is going to have be a counter-attacking forward line. Mathew Leckie will start on one of the two flanks, depending how Oar is used. Tim Cahill is certain to start at the central striker.
Much will depend on whether or not Bresciano starts. If the Al Gharafa man is on the bench, Postecoglou could be more likely to go with 4-2-3-1 and keep Oar central, providing an opening to Ben Halloran or Dario Vidosic to feature in the first team.
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