The Socceroos’ Russia destiny rests firmly in their own hands

David Holden Roar Rookie

By , David Holden is a Roar Rookie

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    The Socceroos got the win and the three points against Saudi Arabia in Adelaide a couple of weeks ago but, in terms of World Cup qualification, Japan’s 1-1 with Iraq in Tehran was just as important.

    With two games to go, Japan have the lead with 17 points with Saudi Arabia and Australia now level pegging on 16 points, with the Saudis marginally ahead on goal difference.

    There are two automatic qualifying spots up for grabs but obviously three into two doesn’t go, so what chance are the Socceroos of finishing in the top two and avoiding some home-and-away sudden death games?

    Well, the first thing to remember is destiny is in their hands. If they win their remaining two qualifying games, they are in. The last game at home against Thailand should lead to a win but their next qualifying game is critical. On 31st August, the Socceroos take on Japan away at Saitama.

    Australia’s last win against Japan in Japan was way back in 1969. Since 2000, they have played seven times away for four losses and three draws. So, it will be almost 50 years between if they do get the win. A draw would be an ok result, but a loss would likely send Australia to playoffs.

    Saudi Arabia have the United Arab Emirates away at the end of August and then have Japan at home on the fifth September. For the UAE, it’s now mathematically impossible to grab third spot so you would think that Saudi Arabia would grab the three points in that game. If Australia can get the draw against Japan, Saudi Arabia would sit in first place one point ahead of Japan and two points ahead of Australia.

    Australia would need to win against Thailand to then be assured of a spot as the other two teams play in the last round.

    Matthew Leckie Australia Socceroos 2016 Football

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    A loss to Japan however would then require a big win against Thailand and a reliance on Japan to beat Saudi Arabia away, with Japan already assured of qualification if they beat Australia. The Japanese could be forgiven for resting some players in that scenarios so it seems like an Australian loss to Japan in August will have the Socceroos moving into a third place playoff.

    The Socceroos’ likely Asian play off opponent would be Uzbekistan, although it could easily be South Korea. Australia would be hoping for the Uzbeks, who the Socceroos have played three times for three wins.

    Despite a win against South Korea in the Asian Cup Final, a playoff between Australia and South Korea would be a toss up with both teams previously expected to qualify.

    A win in the Asian qualifying fourth rounds would see a playoff against the fourth placed CONCACAF team which is shaping up to be Panama or Honduras. Both teams are close to unknowns for Australia and tough away locations will make qualification tight.

    I think the Socceroos will take a point against Japan, win against Thailand and grab one of the two automatic spots for Russia. A loss to Japan would make it very difficult for Australia to qualify.

    The Confederations Cup may actually save their campaign, with the squad to get some much needed match practice leading to probably the most important two games of the players’ careers.

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