Make no mistake, football in Australia is big. The celebrations after their 3-1 aggregate win over Honduras in their World Cup play-off had all the glitz and hysterics befitting lifting the trophy itself.
After all the tournament in Russia will be the fourth-straight time the Socceroos have qualified for the global spectacle and they have gotten their with help from a few players that are no strangers to fans of EFL clubs.
Aston Villa midfielder Mile Jedinak scored a surprise hat-trick to raise the roof at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium last November with 76,080 in attendance, and now stands to become the first Australia captain to lead them in two World Cups.
Having led his team in Brazil four years ago, the 33-year-old admitted he was unaware of this personal achievement when he leads Australia out in their first match against Group C opponents France.
“Other from you mentioning it just now, it hadn’t crossed my mind,” Jedinak told The Australian. “Obviously I have thought many times how much of a privilege and honour it is to be captain of my country. To do it at a World Cup is even more special and to possibly do it again, it would mean … it’s really hard to put into words.
“I would feel an overwhelming sense of pride to be given the responsibility again.”
Australia head coach Bert van Marwijk has plenty of competition in central midfield and it is in that position that most players have their club roots in England; particularly in the Championship.
Along with last year’s Championship play-off winner Aaron Mooy of Huddersfield Town, QPR’s Massimo Luongo and Hull City’s Jackson Irvine will all vy for a place in the squad of 23 to jet off to their base in Kazan, 500 miles east of the capital, Moscow.
After their match against France, Australia face Denmark and Peru seeking to progress from the group stages for the first time since 2006.