On the road to Russia.
On the road to Russia.

15 things you need to know about the Socceroos

THE World Cup might be the biggest sporting event on the planet but let's be honest, many of us only really tune into the world's game for a few weeks every four years.

While it's probably too late for you to be trying to extend the list of Socceroos players you know past Tim Cahill, it doesn't mean you have to sound like a total dummy when you gather with friends and family to watch Australia's games against France, Denmark and Peru.

Instead of complaining about players faking injuries and wasting time, reel off some of these fun facts and you'll sound like the smartest fan in the room.

Josh Risdon likes to live dangerously.
Josh Risdon likes to live dangerously.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

SOCCEROOS defender Josh Risdon left Australia to link up with the team ahead of the World Cup the day after he got married to wife Ebony. Ballsy move, but she didn't mind.

"So many people have said to me you must be upset him having to leave the day after your wedding," Ebony wrote on Instagram. "Whilst it's not ideal there was not a single moment I spent upset. How is it possible to be even slightly bitter watching the person you love achieve a life long dream. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat... what's a few days when you have a lifetime together?" Sounds like a keeper.

Another relatively new newly-wed is defender Trent Sainsbury, who married the daughter of incoming Socceroos coach Graham Arnold late last year. Sainsbury met Elissa while playing under Arnold for the Central Coast Mariners, reportedly carrying on a relationship for six months before his coach found out. "I said to him, 'Are you crazy or what? Anyone else, but the coach's daughter.'" Arnold told News Corp recently. "He said, 'You can't help feelings'. I said, 'You need to play twice as good now'" Sainsbury did, and now he's our best defender.

Andrew Nabbout is one of the feel-good stories of the squad. Dumped by Melbourne Victory three years ago, he has enjoyed a fairytale career turnaround to earn a national call-up. His work ethic likely comes from his father, a champion bodybuilder who was twice named Mr Lebanon in his native country.

Midfield star Aaron Mooy has plenty to look forward to even if Australia fails to fire in Russia. He's expecting his second child with wife Nicola not long after the tournament.

 

Bert is the word.
Bert is the word.

HEY BERT

SOCCEROOS coach Bert van Marwijk wasn't the even-tempered personality he is now when he played. His nickname at one stage was "eigenwijze lul", which is Dutch for stubborn dick. But he's a guru now, even paying the wages of several assistant coaches out of his own salary.

This is the second World Cup in a row Australia enters with a basically brand new coach. Ange Postecoglou, who was replaced by van Marwijk this year, took the reins not long before the 2014 tournament after Holger Osieck was sacked. Guus Hiddink was also relatively new in 2006, although unlike van Marwijk and Postecoglou he coached in the qualification process.

 

GETTING TO KNOW OUR GROUP

The French are an interesting bunch. Central defender Adil Rami dates Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson. Midfielder Paul Pogba has been banned from speaking in press conferences for the past four years because coach Didier Deschamps wants to protect team unity. And the weirdest tidbit, striker Olivier Giroud was terrified of Alf as a child.

The French are an interesting bunch. Central defender Adil Rami dates Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson. Midfielder Paul Pogba has been banned from speaking in press conferences for the past four years because coach Didier Deschamps wants to protect team unity. And the weirdest tidbit, striker Olivier Giroud was terrified of Alf as a child.

Peru's lead-in was dominated by captain and record goal scorer Paolo Guerrero's fight to play. Guerrero was banned after he tested positive for cocaine which he put down to, wait for it, a contaminated cup of tea. But thankfully for Peruvian fans he was reinstated after the captains of all the other teams in the group wrote in favour of him being allowed to play.

Denmark midfielder Mathias Jorgensen is a teammate of Aaron Mooy's at Huddersfield. But he has the name Zanka, not Jorgensen, on the back of his jersey after being nicknamed after the Cool Runnings character early on his career. "My former youth coach had seen the movie 'Cool Runnings' and we were coming back from training ... and we had to cram a lot of people in the car," Jorgensen told the BBC.

"I was sat in front of the passenger seat in what seemed like a bobsleigh and he looked down and said 'Sanka' and it just caught on. By the end of high school everyone was calling me 'Zanka' and when I signed my first contract at Copenhagen they asked me what I wanted on my shirt. My Mum was saying I could take my dad's name 'Jattah-Njie' or her name Jorgensen and then the Sports director said how about Zanka? It's more recognisable than Jorgensen as a lot of people are named Jorgensen in Scandinavia."

 

The whole world wants to know where Antoine Griezmann is going next.
The whole world wants to know where Antoine Griezmann is going next.

COUNTING THE CASH

FRANCE'S squad is worth $1.68 billion, according to transfermarkt.com - more than any other nation in the tournament. Australia? It's 23-man squad is valued at $76 million, kinda like the difference between Bobby Axelrod and one of the traders on his floor.

Mooy is the most expensive player in Australian history. His English Premier League club Huddersfield paid Manchester City a reported $14 million to sign him last year.

Australia is a $13 outsider with the TAB in its opening game against group favourite France. It would be the biggest upset from an odds point of view since Switzerland edged eventual winner Spain 1-0 in their opening game of the 2010 World Cup.

Socceroos striker Tomi Juric is the bookies' favourite to be our leading goal scorer at $6, but next best, at $6.50, is for none of our players to score. Ouch.

 

STATS THAT MATTER

Expect to hear this a couple of dozen times in the next few weeks: Tim Cahill is aiming to score at his fourth World Cup. Only Brazilian legend Pele (1958-70) and German greats Uwe Seeler (1958-70) and Miroslav Klose (2002-10) have managed the feat, which Cahill is on track for after two goals against Japan in 2006, a header against Serbia in 2010 and superb finishes against Chile and the Netherlands in 2014..

Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan and Cahill are among 62 players who have gone to four World Cups. Milligan has only made one appearance at this point though.

Now have your partner explain the offside rule and you're good to go!


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