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.
To be staged in three countries – the US, Canada and Mexico – Daily Mail Australia has pulled out the crystal ball and boldly predicted who may don the gold jersey in three and a half years time.
The likes of Harry Souttar and Kye Rowles – both just 24 – will be on the plane barring injuries, as will x-factor striker or winger Garang Kuol.
But who else will join them?
At 30, Mat Ryan still appears to be the best option between the sticks, although the likes of 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 matches, a statistic he shares with Mat Leckie.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is likely to be Australia’s first choice goalkeeper at the 2026 World Cup
Harry Souttar announced himself as a world class player in Qatar – and will be in the 2026 World Cup squad unless injured (pictured, marking Lionel Messi)
Souttar and Rowles both impressed in the Middle East – and have age on their side.
A move to the English Premier League awaits for Souttar, which will only improve his game.
Squad players Thomas Deng (25) and Milos Degenek (28) will be in the mix – and look for Gianni Stensness to feature in selection discussions given he can also play in midfield.
The position which should worry Socceroos fans.
Former Sydney FC prodigy Joel King appears the logical replacement for Aziz Behich, who at 31, has more than likely played at his last World Cup.
Central Coast Mariners young gun Jacob Farrell – aged just 20 – is tipped to challenge King for a starting spot.
Australia has an embarrassment of riches here, with Nathaniel Atkinson at the front of the queue.
While the Tasmanian born defender was run ragged by French superstar Kylian Mbappe in the Socceroos’ group opener in Doha, he is a quality player who has impressed in Scotland with Hearts.
Regular football in Europe over the next few years will only aid his development, with other options Fran Karacic and Mariners junior Lewis Miller.
Nathaniel Atkinson was handed a football lesson by French superstar Kylian Mbappe – but his quality as a right back is obvious
Young gun Keanu Baccus caught the eye in Qatar – and looms as a vital player for the Socceroos over the next few years
Jackson Irvine will be 33, but if fit, he will be selected.
Father time may catch up with Aaron Mooy – who will be 35 – but Keanu Baccus showed his class when given an opportunity by Graham Arnold.
Cameron Devlin wasn’t 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 the cut playing in advanced attacking roles.
Western Sydney Wanderers defensive midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof continues to improve and look for Cam Peupion to bang the door down.
At just 20, he is close to a debut 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 is already Australia’s next big thing.
A move to Newcastle United come January couldn’t have come at a better time, and if he realises 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 game time – be it in the A-League or abroad.
Leckie was Australia’s best player in the World Cup along with Souttar, but nudging 35 makes him a 50/50 proposition.
Awer Mabil was also in Qatar and probably needs to leave Spain and kickstart his club career elsewhere to remain in the thoughts of national team coaches.
Marco Tilio can unlock defences with a killer pass and also has an eye for goal (pictured, playing New Zealand in September)
As has been the case since Mark Viduka retired, a real problem area for the Socceroos.
At 31, Mitch Duke has played in his last World Cup, and Jamie Maclaren may well be close to hanging up his boots given he will be 33.
Alou Kuol – Garang’s older brother – burst onto the scene with the Mariners in 2020- and at just 21, he should improve over the next three and a half years as he hones his craft in Germany with VfB Stuttgart.
Other options include Mohamed Toure – currently playing in France with Reims B – and Western Sydney Wanderers forward Kusini Yengi.