You just knew it was going to happen – the Socceroos will face old sparring partners Japan, as well as a tricky away tie to Iraq, in the next round of 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Australia was drawn in Group B along with Japan, Oman, Jordan and Iraq. Group A consists of Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, Uzbekistan and South Korea.
The Socceroos and the South Koreans were the top seeds in qualifying, but Australia have arguably been handed the harder route to Brazil.
The Green and Gold will play Oman away on June 8, in the opening game, and then are up against Japan at Suncorp Stadium four days later. The top two teams from the group will qualify for the World Cup, while the third place team will play-off for the final Asian spot.
Australia and Japan have played some engaging matches in recent years. The Socceroos dramatically dismantled the Japanese 3-1 back in Germany in 2006, but the North Asians got some revenge at the 2007 and 2011 Asian Cups, knocking out the Socceroos in the quarter-finals and then final.
Undoubtedly Osieck’s men will want to square the ledger after the recent heart-breaking final loss in Qatar.
Japanese teams have also had the wood over Australian teams in the Asian Champions League, highlighted most recently by FC Tokyo’s 2-0 defeat of Brisbane Roar.
Jordan should be the easiest match in the group, but Japan will be dangerous and Australia have lost to both Oman and Iraq previously.
Oman are ranked 92nd in the world, Jordan 83rd and Iraq 76th, but the FIFA rankings will count for little on the pitch.
Osieck has had the Socceroos purring in recent games, much more than his predecessor Pim Verbeek ever did, but here lies the ultimate challenge.
The Australian team will return to Brisbane for their first home game of this round, with the remaining venues to be announced.
The two Japan games will be beauties. The Socceroos will be tested by a friendly in Denmark before this and then the qualifying round will begin.
The Socceroos will need to be battle-hardened if they are to have any chance of success in Brazil, and this will certainly be the case after these eight qualifying matches.
Trips to the Middle East will be long, but publicly Holger Osieck believes that logistically there aren’t too many issues.
Aussie football fans need to make sure they get out to our home games and give the team the best support possible. Surely the Socceroos will come up against rabid support away, so let’s return the favour on our soil.
2014 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers – Fourth Round fixtures
Sunday, 3 June 2012 Australia – Bye
Friday, 8 June 2012 Oman v Australia
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 Australia v Japan
Tuesday, 11 Sept 2012 Jordan v Australia
Tuesday, 16 Oct 2012 Iraq v Australia
Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 Australia – Bye
Tuesday, 26 March 2013 Australia v Oman
Tuesday, 4 June 2013 Japan v Australia
Tuesday, 11 June 2013 Australia v Jordan
Tuesday, 18 June 2013 Australia v Iraq