World Cup: Andrew Nabbout within striking distance for first shot at starting spot

ON TARGET: Former Newcastle Jets winger-turned-striker Andrew Nabbout during Socceroos training in the lead-up to the World Cup. Picture: FFA
ON TARGET: Former Newcastle Jets winger-turned-striker Andrew Nabbout during Socceroos training in the lead-up to the World Cup. Picture: FFA

The race is on to lead the line for the Socceroos in Australia's opening World Cup match with France.

In a mostly settled Australia side, there are four contenders to start up front on June 16 – Andrew Nabbout, Tomi Juric, Tim Cahill and Jamie Maclaren.

Each has spent time on the park in two warm-up friendlies against the Czech Republic, which the Socceroos won 4-0, and Hungary, which they won 2-1.

And while it seemed unthinkable just six months ago, the unheralded Nabbout looks to be in the box seat.

The 25-year-old earned a lucrative move to Japan's J-League with Urawa Red Diamonds after sparkling form for the Newcastle Jets during the past two A-League seasons.

Nabbout has started all four friendlies under Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk, albeit as a left winger against Colombia in March, for his only four international appearances.

Could his fifth be against Les Bleus on Saturday?

"It was a big confidence booster for me to get the nod against Hungary," Nabbout said.

"I knew I was only going to play 45 minutes, as we spoke about it previously.

"But it was very nice to lead the line again and to get a start again. In fact, in all my four games now I've started, which is massive for me going to the World Cup."

Up front, the disparity between experience is startling.

Cahill, Australia's all-time leading scorer, has played at three World Cups and should end his international career after this tournament.

He has 106 caps and 50 goals – Nabbout, Juric and Maclaren have 45 appearances and nine goals combined.

But without substantial minutes at club level, the 38-year-old Cahill would be a shock starter if selected.

Juric is more likely to be thrown in if van Marwijk judges him to have fully recovered from a knee complaint that held him back in training.

Both Cahill and Juric were in no mood to talk, brushing aside journalists and making a beeline for the team bus, after given limited minutes against Hungary.

The confident Nabbout said he would be relentless if given the honour to start on June 16.

"I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing these past few weeks – put teams under pressure at the back and pounce on every little error," Nabbout said.

"I know France, given the talent and the names that they have, won't make too many errors, but it's my job to try to force them and make the most of any that do happen.

"You get one chance at a World Cup when it comes around every four years.

"So we're going to give it everything. We'll go out with guns blazing in terms of the effort we put in."