Tim Cahill optimistic for World Cup but questions 'nice' Socceroos leaders

What 'Ernie the Disruptor' will bring to Football Australia (2:48)

Football Australia boss James Johnson says newly appointed chief football officer Ernie Merrick will operate as "a technical director with teeth." (edited) (2:48)

Tim Cahill thinks the Socceroos lack natural leaders compared with the "men and attitude" of his era.

The Australian football great is nevertheless optimistic ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, despite the Socceroos' stiff task against Denmark, Tunisia and defending champions France in the group stage.

And Australia's all-time leading goalscorer, who netted five goals in three consecutive finals campaigns before being scarcely used in a fourth, says he'll be involved with the team in some capacity given he now calls Doha home.

But the 42-year-old couldn't help but hark back to "the old school" when asked who he saw as the current squad's spiritual leader.

"You don't have your natural leaders like you had in the past," he said.

"Lucas Neill, Mile Jedinak, [Tony] Popovic, [Kevin] Muscat... it was different; there were a lot of men, there was an attitude."

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is captain of Graham Arnold's side, while Mathew Leckie, Aaron Mooy, Jackson Irvine, Trent Sainsbury and Aziz Behich all have at least 49 Socceroos caps.

"They have a group they rely on a lot, and Arnie's big on it," Cahill, who was in camp when the team qualified in Qatar in June, said.

"Maty I'm really close with.

"Observing the leadership group, it was really, really interesting to see the dynamic. It was a nice leadership group. Football is nice now. The old school with us; we were more actions, silent leaders."

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The 2006 Socceroos squad held their own against the best in the world, denied a quarterfinals berth by a controversial penalty against Italy in the round of 16.

"I don't know what the right approach is [now]," Cahill said.

"There's loads of nice football teams but it then comes down to the manager and how he manages the cultures and expectations."

Arnold sees Cahill's point but doesn't agree.

"A lot of kids these days don't get brought up a hard way, they get brought up a softer way," Arnold said.

Arnold said the players were not "too nice".

"[As a coach] you see the good side and bad side of every person," he said.

"They showed me they've got 'it' [in Cup qualifying wins] against the UAE and Peru... that they have that side of them."

Arnold scored 19 goals for his country and played more than 450 club games in Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan between 1980 and 2000, before beginning a coaching career that took him to the 2006 World Cup as Guus Hiddink's assistant.

"Everyone still in Australia talks about the golden generation, golden generation," he said.

"I hate comparing generations. But we have got some good kids."

Those "kids" put their hands up in the Socceroos' 2-0 defeat of New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday, when 18-year-old Garang Kuol and Jason Cummings impressed in cameos off the bench.

Cahill is confident Australia have the weapons and strategy needed to progress out of a tough group.

But he said it was up to Arnold to select and use his players appropriately, noting the team "sat behind the ball and watched the game pass us by" under short-term coach Bert Van Marwijk in Russia four years ago.