Australia take on Spain in their last 2014 World Cup game at the Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, on Tuesday June 24 from 2am (AEST)
Who would have imagined the Socceroos heading into their last Group B match facing a Spanish outfit already eliminated from the tournament?
Or the possibility of the 2010 champs finishing dead last if they fail to defeat a spirited Australian team that has won the praises of many for the manner in which they acquitted themselves in Brazil?
It would be a fitting end if the Socceroos could turn their impressive performances to date into a result, and end ahead of Spain on the table.
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has some selection headaches with Tim Cahill, the scorer of Australia’s greatest ever goal, unavailable through suspension.
Many have tipped Postecoglou to push Mathew Leckie into the No 9 position to allow Ben Halloran to make his first World Cup start, but I’m predicting A-League top goal scorer and Fulham-bound target man Adam Taggart to cap his meteoric rise with his first ever World Cup start.
The midfield is the other part of the ground which should contain Mark Milligan and Marco Bresciano, but with questions marks still surrounding their fitness, expect anyone from Oliver Bozanic, Matt Mckay, James Holland and Dario Vidosic to vie for those two spots.
Spain on the other hand could never have imagined the way their World Cup would unravel. Head coach Vincente del Bosque has handled himself admirably amongst all the criticism.
What is certain is that a generation of players will be saying goodbye to their international careers and even del Bosque might relinquish his position come the end of Brazil 2014.
Therefore, how he lines up is anyone’s guess and although you assume there is no place for sentiment, it will be interesting to see if del Bosque uses this dead-rubber to provide a platform to the likes of Xavi, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres & Iker Casillas to farewell on the grandest stage or whether he begins the sea-change that will sweep through the national team over the next few months.
I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard over the past week that tiki-taka is well and truly dead. Well, this is one coach who is not buying into all the talk. The style that has produced one of the greatest teams in the history of football is not dead but rather in a very interesting transition phase.
Spain is and will continue to produce world class footballers who have grown up watching and being taught a highly technical brand of football. There will be some adjustments along the way but do not expect them to disband a philosophy that has captivated football fans for the best part of a decade.
For this game both teams will operate within a 1-4-3-3 framework, with the intention of dominating the ball. Of course the Socceroos are only beginning their philosophical ascendency of playing a possession-based game at international level and no team over time has shown the way forward more than the Spanish.
Information coming out of the Spanish camp is that del Bosque will make some changes but the squad is blessed with individual quality and the team that fronts will be desperate to atone for the past two performances.
One main area where the Spanish have struggled is in their ability to make second line runs when they have ball possession in the middle third of the ground.
It is the reason the Dutch and the Chileans were able to maintain a high last line, as there was minimal threat in behind the backline. Their ability to increase the amount of times they can receive a pass behind the last line will have a strong bearing on the result.
Australia on the other hand is optimistic about their performances and will view a clash with the psychologically scarred Spanish side as the game to consolidate the positive work completed so far.
Postecoglou being a strong advocate for the 1-4-3-3 will urge his team to press the Spanish very high up the ground from the outset, and if Spain do not begin making more second line runs this could work in the Socceroos favor, giving them even more reason to press aggressively and high up the pitch without the threat of the space behind being exposed.
Characteristically Taggart replacing Cahill changes the dynamics in the final third for the Socceroos. He offers a threat to the Spanish in behind as he favors runs on the line of offside and is a real opportunist in and around the box.
We lose the aerial threat that Cahill provides but there is no grander stage for Taggart to announce himself to the world than against the current World Champions.
Prediction: Australia 2 - 1 Spain
I am choosing to believe that all the good work of the Socceroos will not be undone in this final World Cup match against Spain.
Postecoglou will have stressed the need to maintain the high energy and positive playing style the team has shown already but to match it with a winning score line.
As a coach he operates with no fear and the team needs to play with the same belief to cap a very positive tournament.
I dare to dream tonight!
* Pic from the #allin or nothing campaign by @adidasau