SOCCEROOS coach Ange Postecoglou would have known his task was not going to be easy when he followed Holger Osieck into the top job last year.
The former Melbourne Victory mentor would have known there would be hurdles to climb on the road to Rio and beyond.
But the speed bump that has been put in front of him this weekend might be a really difficult one to get over.
Robbie Kruse was one of the stars of an up-and-down World Cup qualifying campaign, and would have been one of the first names on the team sheet for the first World Cup game against Chile in Brazil on June 13.
In fact, some have said that Kruse must be the man who Postecoglou should build his side around as he plots his World Cup campaign.
Now those plans seem to have gone up in smoke with Kruse suffering what looks like a season-ending knee injury while training with German side Bayer Leverkusen.
Kruse has barely five months to recover from the injury if he is to feature at the World Cup, meaning he is almost certainly out of contention.
The 25-year-old is apparently set to go in for an operation early this week, and the only feasible chance the attacker has of making it to Brazil is to undertake the radical LARS surgery.
That operation allowed Sydney Swans defender Nick Malceski to play just 86 days after rupturing his ACL in 2010. However, the LARS surgery is widely agreed to be a riskier proposition than the regular operation.
If Kruse takes the traditional path of rehabilitation, he will miss the rest of the Bundesliga season, the World Cup and likely not be able to play for the Socceroos until the 2015 Asian Cup.
If that is the case, it is an awful blow for the Brisbane-born player who has enjoyed a breakout year for both club and country.
Kruse was signed by Leverkusen from Fortuna Dusseldorf as an ideal replacement for Andre Schurrle, who signed for Chelsea last year in a deal worth A$29 million.
He also starred in the final three World Cup qualifiers and will be hard to replace should he be out of the World Cup.
Postecoglou will be devastated for Kruse, but he will also be really disappointed that he has lost a player who was key to his World Cup ambitions.
If the worse-case scenario is confirmed then the Socceroos coach will have his work cut out finding a replacement.
The options for Postecoglou could include Melbourne Victory's James Troisi, Nikita Rukavytsya, who is doing well at Frankfurt in Germany, Tom Rogic, who could yet be returning to the A-League, and the experienced Brett Holman who has been trying to revitalise his career with Al Nasr in the United Arab Emirates.