A 1-0 victory to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup qualifier has sent them to the World Cup and means Australia will have to battle it out with Syria just to stay in with a chance.
The Socceroos recorded a shaky, nervous and altogether frustrating 2-1 win over Thailand on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t enough to guarantee qualification.
They also needed Japan to either win or draw with Saudi Arabia – but with nothing to gain from the match themselves, the Japanese ultimately copped a one-goal loss.
Australia will now go into the fourth round of qualification, which means they must play Syria in a two-match series in October.
If they win this they will put themselves in the inter-confederation playoffs, where they will play an as-yet-unknown team from the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) in another two-match series for a spot in the World Cup.
Honduras currently occupy the spot on the CONCACAF table that will be sent to the inter-confederation playoffs, but each team in the mix must still play three more matches.
Panama and the United States are also possible opponents, or less likely, Costa Rica or Trinidad and Tobago could be in the mix.
Only by winning both of these two-match series can they Australians still qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – if they fall short in either one then it’ll be game over, and they’re staying home next year.
The most frustrating aspect of the result is that if Australia had simply scored two more goals in their match against Thailand, they would have beaten Saudi Arabia on total goals scored and qualified.
That may seem like a big ask, but given Australia’s general dominance during the game – recording 45 shots to eight, and 12 on goal to just one – it could easily have been achieved.
“If there was a more one-sided contest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it,” said Australian coach Ange Postecoglou.
“45 shots; 20 odd inside the box, three posts; one cleared off the line. The goalkeeper’s pulled off some great saves.
“Usually when the evidence is so overwhelming, you get the rewards. Tonight we didn’t.”
Postecoglou spoke out in defense of his players despite the disappointing results of their ten-match World Cup qualification campaign.
“I’ve been sitting here frustrated for the last two years, listening to some of the garbage being thrown around at these players.
“It’s tough qualifying for a World Cup. It’s even tougher when it’s your first one.
“We’ve played 10 games and lost one. They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them.
“You know what? Yeah that’s all I’ve got to say.”