Household name: Tim Cahill is the only Socceroo in the World Cup squad who has a nationwide profile. Photo: Getty Images
Ange Postecoglou wants the country to get behind the Socceroos. Around 50,000 of us will be doing just that at Homebush Bay on Monday night, as we farewell the national team before it heads to Brazil. For a Monday night, in the school term, that's a reasonable show of support. But in comparison to the previous two World Cup farewells, when 95,000 showed up in 2006 and 58,000 showed up in 2010, it's another sign of just how much the Socceroos have slipped off the radar.
It's also why Postecoglou is happy to promote the team as much as humanly possible, and why he expects his players to do the same. During the pre-World Cup camp there has been a demonstrable increase in media appearances and fan engagement in comparison to the recent past, and when the issue was raised at the pre-game press conference about whether this might be a distraction, the coach was quick to hose down the line of questioning, responding: ''I don't see it that way at all. It's part of the process... to grow the game.''
Tim Cahill, who will captain his country for the first time, was equally on message, talking about how "nice it will be to embrace the fans, to say a big thank you". Heading to his third World Cup as one of the few survivors of the so-called Golden Generation, Cahill's words and his demeanour confirm the age of entitlement which was allowed to flourish under previous regimes is finally over. And not before time.
Yet if there is a new found sense of respect, even modesty, within the squad, it has come at a cost. Without Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Mark Schwarzer or Lucas Neill, there are few identifiable stars. Cahill is one of the few household names left on the roster, which is as good an argument as any to have made him the World Cup captain during this period of transition. Instead he has to settle for a cameo captaincy in the absence of the injured Mile Jedinak. ''This is the most revitalising period of my career,'' says Cahill, which tells us how much he is relishing the role of senior statesman.
Postecoglou, though, has preferred the low-profile Jedinak to lead the team in Brazil, which underlines how little he cares for reputations. It does, nonetheless, reinforce the size of task to find a new generation of box office stars.
However many times you dissect the squad, there are few obvious candidates. Performances at the World Cup will have an impact, but right now it says a lot that goalkeeper Mat Ryan looms as the player best equipped to front the NextGen marketing campaign. The likes of Matthew Leckie, Tommy Oar, Jason Davidson and Tom Rogic may be in the mix, but they'll all need to seriously advance their club careers post-World Cup to excite mainstream imagination. Postecoglou promotes the collective over the individual, which is fair enough, but a national team without a major sponsor, and without the pulling power of the not-too-distant past, desperately needs to find some gloss in time for the Asian Cup.
In the meantime what we want is to believe Australia won't be embarassed at the World Cup. The farewell match against an experimental South Africa will give us the first real glimpse of what may be in store. Asked whether the result was important, Postecoglou replied: ''Of course it is. The result always matters to me.''
Anything less than a victory against the Bafana Bafana will increase the anxiety, and perhaps give voice to those who wonder whether Postecoglou is too idealistic in his thinking. There's no doubt this game offers the perfect opportunity to boost confidence, allay some fears, and reveal how many of the new breed are genuinely up to international standard. And with any luck, someone will take the game by the scruff of the neck and we'll see a star being born.