Who will start for the Socceroos against Belgium?

Goal Australia predicts the starting XI for the Socceroos' first match since the World Cup with the right side of defence up for grabs

Australia will take their first steps towards the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on Thursday with the Socceroos set to face Belgium in a friendly in Liege, four days before taking on Saudi Arabia in London.

While the Socceroos' performances at the World Cup were generally promising, all three matches ended in defeat and the main theme from their camp this week has been the importance of turning potential into results from now on.

In Australia's first game since Brazil 2014, who will coach Ange Postecoglou select as he plots the downfall of FIFA's fifth-ranked nation?


Postecoglou has picked just two glovemen in his 20-man squad and it would be a big shock if he didn't start Mat Ryan in goal versus Belgium. The 22-year-old cemented himself as Postecoglou's number one goalkeeper in the lead-up to the World Cup as well as throughout the tournament and, having played every game for Club Brugge in the Belgian Pro League so far this season, Ryan should be given the nod at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne. His rival - Mitch Langerak - has already played three first-team games for Borussia Dortmund this term, however, and will be expected to start one of the two upcoming friendlies.


With only five out-and-out defenders to choose from, Australia's back four picks itself except at right-back. Alex Wilkinson will anchor the defence, with Trent Sainsbury almost certain to make his senior international bow next to the Jeonbuk Motors man. West Brom's new starting left-back - Jason Davidson - should keep his spot in the starting XI, especially with doubts surrounding Brad Smith's eligibility for the Liege match.

At right-back, Postecoglou has three rather equal options. Bailey Wright, Joshua Brillante and Chris Herd have one senior cap between them but all have the potential to be a long-term solution on the right side of Australia's back four.

Brillante and Herd are better-known as midfielders but have frequently proven their versatility in defence. The former has hit the ground running with Fiorentina - until his horror Serie A debut on Saturday - and although Herd has not made a senior appearance for Aston Villa this season, he has played in defence in the Premier League on a number of occasions over the past few years. But Wright may be in the box seat, having played four of five league games for Preston North End this term and being part of Postecoglou's squad in Brazil.


When Postecoglou named his initial squad for this month's friendlies, it looked like a change in formation was looming. With Mark Bresciano rested and Tom Rogic struggling for fitness and game-time at Celtic, Australia's midfield group indicated Postecoglou might switch to a standard 4-3-3 without a genuine number 10. Captain Mile Jedinak would anchor the midfield with two players ahead of him, providing support to the forwards.

Mark Milligan, Brillante, Massimo Luongo, Herd and Terry Antonis all would have suited such a set-up but with the latter out injured and Bresciano recalled, 4-2-3-1 looks the better bet.

Bresciano as the playmaker with Jedinak and Milligan behind him would provide the Socceroos with their best chance to get a result against Belgium but don't be surprised if Postecoglou does something different. He is nothing if not unpredictable.


Lock in Tim Cahill to start up front on Friday morning (AEST). Australia's all-time leading goalscorer was the Socceroos' best player in Brazil and he has played 13 games since the World Cup, making him arguably Postecoglou's most match-fit individual.

Out wide it is likely to be a Brazil 2014 reunion with Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie supporting Cahill. Both wingers have started the 2014-15 season strongly with Leckie (one goal, two assists in four games) impressing at FC Ingolstadt in Germany's second tier and Oar (three assists in two games) shining in the Eredivisie.

Robbie Kruse's knee injury scare at training on Tuesday will see the Bayer Leverkusen man on the bench, probably with an eye on the game against Saudi Arabia.