After the Socceroos impressed millions of football fans after reaching the round of 16 in Qatar, attention will soon turn to the 2026 World Cup.
Held in three countries – the US, Canada and Mexico – Daily Mail Australia has pulled out the crystal ball and boldly predicted who will wear the gold jersey in three and a half years.
The likes of Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles – both only 24 – will be on the plane barring injuries, as will x-factor striker or winger Garang Kuol.
But who else is going?
At 30 years old, Mat Ryan still looks like the best option between the sticks, although Joe Gauci (Adelaide United) and Tom Glover (Melbourne City) will keep the veteran on his toes.
Ryan will also be motivated to add to his 10 World Cup games, a stat he shares with Mat Leckie.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is likely to become Australia’s first goalkeeper at the 2026 World Cup
Harry Souttar announced himself as a world-class player in Qatar – and will be part of the 2026 World Cup squad unless injured (pictured, highlights Lionel Messi)
Souttar and Rowles both made an impact in the Middle East – and have age on their side.
A transfer to the English Premier League awaits Souttar, which will only improve his game.
Squad players Thomas Deng (25) and Milos Degenek (28) will be in the mix – looking for Gianni Stensness to take part in squad discussions as he can also play in midfield.
The position that should worry Socceroos fans.
Former Sydney FC prodigy Joel King seems the logical replacement for Aziz Behich, who more than likely played at his last World Cup at the age of 31.
Young Central Coast Mariners Jacob Farrell – just 20 years old – is tipped to challenge King for a starting spot.
BE RIGHT BACK
Australia is ashamed of wealth here, with Nathaniel Atkinson at the front of the line.
While the Tasmanian-born defender was sent off by French superstar Kylian Mbappé during the Socceroos’ opening match in Doha, he is a quality player who has impressed in Scotland with Hearts.
Regular football in Europe in the coming years will only benefit his development, with other options Fran Karacic and Mariners junior Lewis Miller.
Nathaniel Atkinson received a football lesson from French superstar Kylian Mbappé, but his quality as a right-back is obvious
Young striker Keanu Baccus has attracted attention in Qatar and will be a vital player for the Socceroos in the years to come
CENTRAL MIDDLE FIELD
Jackson Irvine turns 33, but if he’s fit, he’ll be selected.
Father Time can overtake Aaron Mooy – who turns 35 – but Keanu Baccus showed his class when he got the chance from Graham Arnold.
Cameron Devlin was not used in Qatar, but his star continues to rise, and Connor Metcalfe looms as another handy option.
On the local front, Jake Brimmer has become a key figure at Melbourne Victory and Riley McGree and Ajdin Hrustic will both make it in advanced attacking roles.
Western Sydney Wanderers defensive midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof continues to improve and looks for Cam Peupion to slam the door.
At just 20 years old, he is close to debuting with Brighton in the EPL and good judges believe he has a huge future.
Garang Kuol has the world at his feet – and playing in Europe will make him an even better player
Garang Kuol hasn’t started a professional match in his career, but he’s already Australia’s next big thing.
A move to Newcastle United in January couldn’t have come at a better time, and when he realizes his potential, the sky is the limit given his raw athleticism and eye for goal.
Marco Tilio was ushered in late by Arnold as injury cover for Martin Boyle in Qatar – but needs consistent playing time – whether in the A-League or abroad.
Leckie was Australia’s best player at the World Cup along with Souttar, but with a nudging of 35 he’s a 50/50 proposition.
Awer Mabil was also in Qatar and will probably have to leave Spain and kickstart his club career elsewhere to stay in the minds of the national coaches.
Marco Tilio can unlock defenses with a great pass and also has an eye for goal (pictured against New Zealand in September)
As has been the case since Mark Viduka retired, a real problem area for the Socceroos.
At 31, Mitch Duke was playing in his last World Cup, and Jamie Maclaren could well be about to hang up his boots as he turns 33.
Alou Kuol – Garang’s older brother – came onto the scene with the Mariners in 2020 – and at just 21 years old, he should improve over the next three and a half years as he hones his craft in Germany at VfB Stuttgart.
Other options include Mohamed Toure – currently playing in France with Reims B – and Western Sydney Wanderers striker Kusini Yengi.