Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA) has released a report which analyses the Socceroos’ 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign.
The report here provides the PFA and the broader Australian football community with insights from the experiences of Australia’s elite players at the pinnacle tournament of men’s football and a benchmark against which to measure the Socceroos’ future participation in international competition.
The report comprises player feedback on the Socceroos’ priorities during the next World Cup ‘cycle’, and insights into the production of the next generation of national team stars, from a player perspective. It also includes an overview of the economic impact World Cup qualification delivers for Australian football.
The release of the PFA’s research arrives at a time where the Socceroos continue preparations for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup (to be held in January/February 2024), Australia’s junior national teams compete in international tournaments in Europe and Asia and the Matildas prepare for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Key findings of the report include:
A world class environment delivers World Cup success
The report reveals a ‘blueprint’ for the ongoing international success for Australia’s National Teams, including insights into the world-class environment provided to the
Socceroos. The same environment will be afforded to the Matildas at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off next month through the world-leading Collective
Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the players and Football Australia in 2019.
A new generation emerges
The squad selected at the 2022 FIFA World Cup was the Socceroos’ second youngest by average age. Coupled with emerging talent from the A-Leagues and junior National Teams, the face of the Socceroos is set to evolve further during the next World Cup cycle.
The A-League provides a clear pathway to the National Team
Eight players in the 26-man FIFA World Cup squad were playing in the A-League Men when selected, a record high. A further 12 players had played in the A-League previously, with only six players not having played domestically. These selections and recent developments surrounding youth development provide a promising signal that the A-League is capable of providing a pathway into the national team under current settings.
Players’ feedback on the future
Looking ahead to the Asian Cup, the 2026 FIFA World Cup and beyond, the players said they were focused on building on their progress in 2022 with a preference for more matches against the right opponents to maximise their performance. Nearly half the players (47%) believed that prioritising matches in Australia should be a focus. The players also said that issues impacting young children, such as the cost to play, marketing to attract more children to the sport, and more community facilities for kids, as the highest priorities to help facilitate the production of the next generation of Socceroos and Matildas.
Commenting on the report, PFA Co-Chief Executive Beau Busch said:
“This report is unprecedented in its scope and scale. It is designed to help the Australian football community and all our interconnected stakeholders to deeply understand the conditions that deliver success for our National Teams, to support our collective ambition of sustained international success.
“It is also an important benchmarking tool to help contexualise the achievements of the Socceroos over time and provide an evidence-based, objective analysis of our players and team. There’s a ‘boom and bust’ narrative that often clouds the performance of our National Teams and the performance of our sport, so long-term, data-driven evidence provides a better basis for our game to take calculated strategic decisions towards improvement.
“The report reflects the vital role that collective bargaining has played in delivering a world class environment, which is a clear pre-condition for international success. Equally to the credit of Head Coach Graham Arnold and his staff, the players’ assessments of aspects such as the environment, team culture, and tactical preparation, were also very positive.
“Our hope is that this report provides a foundation for dialogue around the key areas of collective focus and responsibility for our players, Football Australia, the A-Leagues and our National Teams as we pursue a competitive edge on the global stage.”