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We predict the Socceroos’ 2030 starting XI, in what’s a World Cup year

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socceroos, 2030 prediction

Predicting future World Cup sides is historically a social media death wish. This hasn’t stopped our resident football fanatic from casting an eye to the not-so-distant future and selecting his Socceroos XI for the 2030 World Cup.

Aside from being English, what do Micah Richards, Jose Baxter, and Ben Amos have in common? In 2007 the Daily Mail predicted the trio would be key components of England’s 2014 World Cup side. For its comedic value, more so than its footballing accuracy, it is a prediction revisited on the website formerly known as Twitter yearly.

Failing to learn from the Daily Mail’s shortcomings, drawn by the timeless attention the publication’s predictions gather, several other outlets have dabbled in the world of future World Cup squad predictions.

Here at Only Sports, we like to live life on the edge. For that reason, I’ve sat down, analysed the Australian male footballing landscape, and am sticking my neck out by predicting my Socceroos starting XI for our (hopefully) glorious campaign in six years.

2030 is a long way away. Where will the world be by then? Will there even be a world? How bad will the climate crisis be? Is the iPhone 29 going to be any good? Will football be limited to AI recreations of old games by current stars?

Only time can answer these questions. For those of you wondering what the Socceroos’ starting XI will look like at the multi-continent 2030 World Cup, I think I have the answers.

The Socceroos 2030 World Cup starting XI

Manager

I cannot articulate how much I wanted to write Ange Postecoglou’s name here. Australia’s most successful manager would be a dream to guide the promising crop of talent the nation will have in the near future.

In all likelihood, Ange will likely be frying bigger fish, most likely at Manchester City, where he’ll be tasked with facilitating the post-Pep recovery, or another European heavyweight.

In his wake, I’ll settle for Kevin Muscat, who by this time will have restored parity to the Old Firm derby after finally taking the top job at Rangers, with some success. A modern football manager with great tactical acumen, who values purposeful possession, Muscat’s 2022 J-League winning Yokohama F. Marinos side was incredibly ball-dominant, while also pressing high, squeezing opposing out of games either with the ball or without it.

With the Socceroos entering a mini ‘golden generation’ populated by talents either reared in European academies or the Australian national footballing curriculum, both of which favour possession-capable players and emphasise ball retention and technical astuteness over anything, we’ll need a manager who values this tactical style to lead us.

Socceroos, Irankunda
Nestory Irankunda promises to be one of the greatest players Australia’s ever produced

Goalkeeper:

Joe Gauci

Age in 2030: 30

Several were in contention for this position, notably Tom Glover and Adam Pavlesic, but neither holds a candle to Joe Gauci. With a European transfer not far away, it’s expected Gauci’s game will go to another level leading to his standing as the Socceroos’ preferred goalkeeper to be undisputed.

A modern ‘keeper, capable with his feet and a fine shot-stopper, such is Gauci’s talents that the transition from Maty Ryan mightn’t be as tough as once thought. In six years, on the cusp of entering his peak, Gauci will undoubtedly be the Socceroos’ first-choice goalkeeper.

Right back:

Nathaniel Atkinson

Age in 2030: 31

Nathaniel Atkinson’s greatest asset is his pace which, to put it simply, is rapid. By 31, he’s likely to have slightly slowed. If Kyle Walker has shown us anything it’s that when ageing speedsters regress they still move quicker than average, with Atkinson likely to follow suit.

Competition will be fierce from Matthew Miller, and any other young right-backs who emerge. Defensive improvements are needed but should Atkinson’s progression continue there’s no reason why he can’t dominate Australia’s right flank for years to come.

Centre backs:

Harry Souttar and Nectarios Triantis

Age in 2030: 32 & 27

Harry Souttar is an immovable presence in the Socceroos backline. Not only is he a mountainous presence, a set-piece threat, and an expert at defending his penalty box, but in possession he’s a comfortable ball progressor and an accurate distributor. Speed isn’t his greatest strength, meaning age shouldn’t weary him too much.

Triantis, the younger of the pair, might be less physically imposing than Souttar, but he is an equally capable defender who shares the modern-day capability to play out from the back comfortably. Once his career kicks off, expect him to supersede Kye Rowles, himself a reliable defender, as Souttar’s perfect partner throughout the 2020s.

harry souttar, socceroos
Harry Souttar will be pivotal to any Socceroos success between now and 2030.

Left back:

Jordan Bos

Age in 2030: 28

As far as young attacking left backs go, Jordan Bos is one of the brightest in world football. Capable of playing as a winger as well, Bos is a fantastic attacking weapon, comfortable in possession and a brilliantly accurate crosser of the football with a penchant for chipping in with goals.

His attacking forays don’t come at the expense of gritty defensive duties, which Bos goes about intelligently. The young Socceroo defender is the prototypical modern left back and will be a mainstay of the national set-up for as long as he wishes.

Bos image2
Melbourne City academy graduate, Jordan Bos, is a highly promising attacking left back

Central midfield:

Alex Robertson, Patrick Yazbek and Ryan Teague

Ages in 2030: 27, 28 and 28

Picking these three was tricky. Midfield is after all about balance, nail that and you’re on the right path. Of Roberton, Yazbek, and Teague, none are traditionally destructive defensive midfielders. Yet, they don’t need to be. Modern football is less about physically imposing defence screeners and more about intelligent, diligent defensive midfielders more adept at dictating tempo and bypassing presses than crashing into challenges.

A product of Manchester City’s academy, Roberton is likely to be the more attacking and creative of the trio. That’s not to discount his off-ball ability but more to credit his wonderful touch, intelligent movement, and exceptional passing range.

Yazbek, himself a wonderful box-to-box midfielder, who’s good in tight spaces, deceptively quick bombing into space beyond his attackers, with a delightful long passing range, offers a bit more defensive assuredness. As does Teague, whose selection might surprise many. He is likely to be the more defensively disciplined of the three, something he’s shown he can be over his career to date.

None of this trio is as physically imposing as some of their predecessors, but in an increasingly technical era of football, ball winners play second fiddle to ball players. These three are moulded more in the latter, with pieces of the former sprinkled into their games.

Right winger:

Conor Metcalfe

Age in 2030: 29

Metcalfe’s selection is, in my eyes, the most contentious and directly relates to the style of football played. A left footer, who early in his career featured slightly deeper on the right of midfield, Metcalfe’s all-round game is brilliant. He can invert, tucking inside to play with the midfield, opening the touchline for a bombarding Atkinson.

An intelligent off-ball mover, with a proclivity for slipping defender’s attention and drifting into dangerous positions, the former Melbourne City kid’s not the only option for this role. Sam Silvera, Marco Tilio and Garang Kuol all offer something different and can each stake their claim for Metcalfe’s role before the 2030 World Cup rolls around.

Conor Metcalfe’s strike, the first in this clip, highlights his goalscoring threat, particularly from long-range

Striker:

Mohamed Toure

Age in 2030: 26

I must admit, I wrestled with this one for a bit. Unlike other positions, Australia doesn’t have a standout young striker. Noah Botic has potential, Garang Kuol is more goalscoring wide forward than striker and Kusini Yengi is a solid prospect, but perhaps not someone who can shoulder the responsibility of leading the Socceroos’ line.

In steps Mohamed Toure, the youngest goal scorer in A-League history. Physically, Toure has all the attributes to become a talented striker, while his brief early career stint at Adelaide highlighted his adept finishing, which he pairs with intelligent positioning and movement in and around the penalty box.

Left winger:

Nestory Irankunda

Age in 2030: 24

It’s scary to think how young Nestory Irankunda will be in 2030. At 24, he’ll still be years off his prime. Such is his talent, particularly in front of goal, that German giants, Bayern Munich, moved to snatch him before he was old enough to legally drink.

Normally a right winger, modern football invites inverting forwards – think Mohamed Salah – and Irankunda’s eye for goal positions him as an incredibly promising goalscoring winger. His blistering pace is only exceeded by the speed with which he sends balls flying into the back of the net.

Australian football is very lucky to have a talent like him to build around, with his German footballing tutelage likely to go a long way in refining and optimising his talent. His combination with Bos in particular is an exciting prospect for Socceroos fans.

Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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