It’s all about goals. For years could rely on proven top performers like Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Mark Bresciano, John Aloisi and Tim Cahill to deliver.
But that is in the past.
The Socceroos haven’t unearthed strikers of their ilk since they all – save for Cahill – bowed out of the international game several years ago.
But the fact that the latter is still in the national team at the age of 37 could be seen as an indictment of the following generations.
have scored 11 goals in seven games in the current phase of World Cup qualifying.
That’s worse than Thursday night’s opponents, Saudi Arabia (13) while Japan, who top the table, who have scored 14 goals.
Admittedly the Socceroos have played more games away from home and in normal circumstances might regard the final match, against Thailand, as an opportunity to fill their boots.
But they have to get results against the Saudis on Thursday night and in Japan later this year to ensure that game with the Thais still is relevant.
So who is going to do the business against the men from the Middle East?
Step forward big Tomi Juric, the man in the number nine shirt, the focal point of the attack.
Can the Swiss-based striker who, at 26, has matured and sharpened as a player, become ‘s key man in front of goal?
His season with Luzern has finished and he comes into camp in in good form, having scored four times in his last five games to help them make the qualifying rounds for next season’s Europa League.
More to the point, the tall striker believes his game has gone to a higher level after a strong second half to the season, with an improved work rate and game sense ensuring he can make a bigger contribution.
“The second half of the season has been much better for me,” says Juric.
“I am really happy with the way its gone, especially these last couple of months. Looking at my stats, I played 30-35 games this year and I haven’t done that in a season in my career. That’s really one big plus for me.
“My stats in my numbers for running in each game, you could compare them to a pretty high level of football. I have improved in that aspect.
“These last few months, I really bought into how the coach has been telling me just to stay consistent.
“I have had one or two off games this second half of the season. I feel I have really been able to help the team a fair bit up front, just keeping balls that get lost.”
Juric knows that there is a weight of expectation on him. There always is for the man with the number nine shirt.
“I have expectations of myself,” he said. “You cherish every moment with the national team. It could be your last. You always want to make sure if you go out with no regrets.”
While Mathew Leckie and Jackson Irvine have scored from open play in recent matches the Socceroos have relied more than might be considered comfortable on goals coming from set pieces or penalties during this qualifying campaign.
Juric, however, does not see that as a negative.
“From the outside you would think something like that but I don’t really feel pressure because if we didn’t have any goals around the whole park, left wing, right wing, centre backs, whatever, then it would put a lot of pressure on me.
“But I know I need to be scoring. It’s down to the whole mentality of how you approach things.”
MEN ON A MISSION
Where the goals might come from:
Juric – in form, confident and ready to step up.
Aaron Mooy – midfielder who is always effective from distance or set pieces.
Mile Jedinak – penalty taker.
Robbie Kruse – skilful player, but lacking in game time and match fitness after leaving Chinese club
Mathew Leckie – goals in recent matches will have built his confidence
Jamie Maclaren – prolific in the A-League, inexperienced at international level
Tom Rogic – quality midfielder with a fine goalscoring touch for Celtic at club level
Jackson Irvine – dynamic box-to-box midfielder with the knack of getting on the end of crosses.
Ajdin Hrustic – young winger getting his first taste of senior international action.
Massimo Luongo – hard-working midfielder who occasionally pops up with a goal
Tim Cahill – great weapon to have on the bench, deadly in air.