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The stats don’t lie: Australia’s gargantuan World Cup task

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Nothing sums up the daunting task facing the Socceroos quite as succinctly as their opening World Cup fixture.

Australia fronts up to one of the tournament favourites in France, stacked with talent in every position. Seriously, the only thing more ridiculous than Les Bleus' strength in depth are some of the stars that didn't make it in their squad.

The Australian sporting public is aware enough of the strength of European leagues, but it can feel so far away and out of sight while domestic football gets excited over Tim Cahill's return to our shores, or the emerging talents of Daniel Arzani and Andrew Nabbout.

It's only when you're paired against such leading lights in the World Cup group stage that it suddenly dawns on you: Australia appears well and truly stuffed.

So gather round, pessimists, and drink in the statistical breakdown of what makes our Group C opponents so fearsome, and Australia's talents appear comparatively modest.

Goals, goals, goals: France has 'em, we don't

Mat Leckie on the ball

Let's have a look at how various nationalities performed in Europe's 'big five' leagues this season — that is, in the English Premier League, France's Ligue 1, Italy's Serie A, Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga.

This isn't the amount of goals scored in these five leagues by players at the World Cup — instead, it's goals scored by all players of a particular nationality across these five leagues in the 2017-18 season.

Goals scored across 'Big Five' European leagues External Link: Goals scored in Big Five leagues

France sits very pretty in second spot, just behind Spain, with a whopping 603 goals scored. Denmark, another Group C contestant, notched 51 goals.

Australia, in comparison, had just nine goals in 2017-18: Aaron Mooy scored four for Huddersfield, and Mathew Leckie five for Hertha Berlin.

If we expand it out to goals plus assists (the final important pass to set up a goal), it doesn't get much better. Unless you're French.

Combined goals and assists across the 'Big Five' leagues External Link: Combined goals and assists in the Big Five leagues

The top three goal-scorers of Spain, France and Germany remains the same for goals plus assists, while there's a bit of shuffling the pack below the podium places.

But for Australia, the only good news is that we're ahead of Peru (five goals and assists), with 13 in total. You can thank Mooy's three assists in the Premier League and Leckie's solitary through-ball in the Bundesliga for that inflation.

But behind France's monumental 1,075 goals and assists, and Denmark's century, the sheer storm headed the Socceroos' way in Russia becomes apparent.

But we've got plenty of players to choose from overseas, right?

Not in the big five leagues. And this time France do top the table outright.

French players playing in the English, French, German, Italian and Spain leagues amount to a formidable 381 guns for hire — ahead of Denmark's 28, Australia's three (Mooy, Leckie and Brighton's Mat Ryan), and Peru's two.

Number of players in 'Big Five' leagues External Link: Number of players in Big Five leagues by nationality

But how useful were all those players?

For France and Denmark, the answer was "pretty handy indeed". France's 381 players notched 7,217 appearances in those five leagues this season gone, while Denmark's 28 marauders registered 611 appearances.

Total appearances made across 'Big Five' leagues External Link: Total appearances made across Big Five leagues

Australia's threesome came in with exactly 100. Compare that to Denmark, who had more than nine times as many players as the Socceroos, with more than six times the appearances.

For the good of your sanity, please don't ask us to compare with France.

Off the pitch? How do the kids these days rate their stars?

Through video games and social media, of course!

Ever heard of FIFA? Not the shadowy organisation that runs the beautiful game. We mean that annually-released, controller-destroying video game produced by EA Sports.

External Link: Paul Pogba is a bit of a gun in FIFA 18

With all the world's football stars licensed and included in the cyber-footballing behemoth, FIFA's yearly updates have become an unofficial guide to ranking the best players around the globe.

For Australia, again, it's a bit humbling.

Group C's stars, sorted by FIFA18 rating External Link: FIFA 18 ratings

Tim Cahill's digital moniker has not been getting better with age, and while the Socceroos' stars may be handy if you're pushing for promotion towards the top leagues, they're probably not going to be winning you the top division in FIFA Ultimate Team any time soon.

France, as expected, is chock-full of FIFA megastars, while Denmark poses a team of consistent quality crowned by midfield star Christian Eriksen.

Against Peru, however, there's at least some competition to be had with most of its players also hovering in the 70s for overall rating.

Antoine Griezmann celebrates goal for France

There is better news in the world of social media. France again dominates (we get it, France are awesome) with Paul Pogba catching fire on Twitter, and Antoine Griezmann a behemoth on Instagram.

Social media followers External Link: Social media followers

But against the Danes and Peruvians, Australia holds its own thanks largely to Tim Cahill's following. And to think some people were a bit upset he was included in Australia's 23-man squad.

Would any of our players fetch the big bucks in the transfer market?

Composite of Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy

Not really.

By comparing each of the same five players' transfer market valuations (that is, an educated guess on what their going rate would be were they to be sold to another club), you get a sobering idea of where Australian players are in the grand scheme of things.

According to transfermarkt.com, Mooy sits pretty as Australia's most valuable player at 9 million Euros ($14.1 million), with fellow Premier League competitor Ryan valued at 6 million Euros.

Top transfer market valuations in Euros External Link: Transfer market valuations

From there, the prices get more modest with Massimo Luongo priced at 4.5 million Euros, Tom Rogic at 2.5 million Euros and Cahill a comparatively miniscule 500,000 Euros.

You might argue that figures like that need some updating — particularly given Rogic's fine form for Celtic — but when you compare those prices to the giants of French football, and even Denmark, the issue becomes pretty academic.

Christian Eriksen celebrates goal for Denmark

Moving outside of the Socceroos' Group C and to the world at large, it will surprise no-one to learn that Europe and South America dominate the total valuations by team.

As you'd expect, the hot property is basically self-combusting in Europe and in South America, while Australia remains a mere speck on the global market.

Total transfer market value across the World Cup External Link: Global transfer market totals

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