Marco Tilio: Australian Talent to Watch Out for Ahead of World Cup

Melbourne Stadium

Australia is heading to their fifth consecutive World Cup, having bested Peru on penalties earlier in the year. Unfortunately for the Aussies, they also have struggled at the tournament: five total appearances and they’ve made it out of the group stages once. That was in 2006 when they promptly lost in the Round of 16.

The major problem for Australia has been scoring goals: at the last two tournaments, they have a combined five goals in six games. This tournament also could be a struggle: many of Australia’s forwards are getting older. This will also be their first World Cup since 1974 without record goalscorer Tim Cahill. They’ll need someone to step up in a big way.

Fortunately for the Socceroos, they have somebody ready to do that: Marco Tilio.

Tilio’s Career Path

Tilio played in the Sydney FC academy, making his professional debut in 2019 at the age of 17 in an Asian Champions League loss. Over the next year, Tilio featured just five more times with no starts. After rejecting a contract offer from Sydney, his contract expired and he became a free agent.

In 2020, Tilio joined Melbourne City FC. (Side note: Melbourne City are owned by the City Football Group that owns Manchester City, New York City, and more). Since then, Tilio has starred: he’s won the Australian Premiership and Championship, as well as being named an A-League Allstar.

Tilio featured for Australia at the Olympics in 2021, scoring against Argentina. It wasn’t Australia’s best tournament, but he impressed nonetheless. He made his first official senior appearance for the Socceroos a few months later and has played several times since then.

Statistics and Comparisons

Tilio finished last season with four goals and five assists with an additional strike in the playoffs, per ESPN.com. Despite being relegated to the bench for parts of the season, the playmaker created nine big chances, the seventh-best total in the league. He created 38 chances total, the 14th-best in the league. In addition, Tilio also proved tricky for defenses to deal with, earning two penalties, the joint-most in the league.

The player I’m statistically comparing Tilio to is Sarpreet Singh. The winger/attacking midfielder from New Zealand, similarly to Tilio, enjoyed a breakout season at the age of 20 before moving to Bayern Munich. So how does Tilio compare to one of the A-League’s record sales?

In his final season in the A-League, Singh scored five goals with eight assists (including the playoffs). However, he also played significantly more than Tilio—roughly 700 more minutes, three more games, and ten more starts. This means that Tilio averaged more goals and assists a match than Singh, and scored as many goals. Overall they compare closely statistically: 38 created chances to Singh’s 41, five assists to seven, and close defensive stats as well. Not bad for someone who played far fewer matches.

Tilio’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Marco Tilio is very well-rounded for a 20-year-old. His versatility allows Tilio to play in numerous different positions, making him an asset for teams lacking depth. He’s got a nice mix of pace, crossing, and passing, that makes him an asset on the wings. Tilio’s central play is also strong thanks to his vision, shooting, and dribbling. Oh, and he’s got a heck of a work rate.

Tilio is a very diminutive forward, though. His height—which sources disagree on but ESPN lists him at 5’7″—is typically going to be a problem against physically gifted opponents. Just look at his opponents in the A-League final: Tilio (and Melbourne) was shut out by Western United’s 6’5″ center-back Léo Lacroix.

Conclusion

I’m not saying that Tilio is the next Tim Cahill, but he has a ton of potential. A versatile player with lots of attributes to like, it would be a strange decision for Australia to not bring him to Qatar. Either way, he can be something special, and he’ll likely move to a stronger league shortly.

For interested teams, they’ll have to move sooner rather than later. Tilio’s only going to get better and more expensive.

Image Courtesy of Storm machine, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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