Socceroos forced into World Cup play-offs

By Vince Rugari, Vince Rugari is a Roar Guru

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    The Socceroos’ World Cup nightmare has come true after Saudi Arabia’s 1-0 win over Japan denied them direct qualification and forced them down the arduous intercontinental play-off route.

    Australia needed a big favour from Japan – either a win or a draw in Jeddah on Wednesday morning (AEST) – to bail them out of trouble after Tuesday night’s hollow 2-1 victory over Thailand.

    But Saudi substitute Fahad Al-Muwallad’s 63rd-minute goal capped off a frustrating night for Ange Postecoglou’s men.

    Australia now faces two difficult home-and-away ties – the first against war-ravaged Syria in October – to book a spot at a fourth straight World Cup.

    The winner of that play-off will go on to battle North and Central America’s fourth-placed qualifier in November for a spot at the global showpiece.

    Despite an incredible 45 shots on goal, the Socceroos couldn’t find the margin against Thailand at AAMI Park that would have seen them overtake the Saudis on goal difference – meaning a win by any score for the home side would have done the job.

    They took a while to find their groove but an inspired change at the break from coach Bert van Marwijk changed the game.

    Al-Muwallad was brought on up front for Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and forced a terrific save from Eiji Kawashima shortly after his introduction, then blasted home a shot from close range just past the hour mark .

    It relieved palpable pressure among the 60,000 screaming fans at the King Abdullah Sports City who were hoping to see their side qualify for their first World Cup since 2006.

    Japan, who qualified with last week’s 2-0 win over Australia, had nothing left to play for but often looked the better side and had two certain goals cleared off the line before Al-Muwallad’s opener.

    But they could not produce an equaliser, consigning the Socceroos to a third-placed finish in Group B and piling even more pressure on Postecoglou’s shoulders.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • September 6th 2017 @ 11:46am
      The Fatman said | September 6th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      People only care about the Socceroos when they are outsiders.

      But yeah, the code keeps shooting itself in the foot in this country.

    • September 6th 2017 @ 7:51pm
      Stuart said | September 6th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

      Can’t polish the turd that is the current Socceroos, inept performance and don’t deserve to play with the big boys at the World Cup.Sorry Ange, but other than Mooy, the current team are very ordinary.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 7th 2017 @ 10:05am
        Stevo said | September 7th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report


    • September 6th 2017 @ 9:02pm
      pacman said | September 6th 2017 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

      The Saudis defeated Japan away, so why was anyone thinking that Japan would be favourites to win in Jeddah?

    • September 7th 2017 @ 2:24am
      beto said | September 7th 2017 @ 2:24am | ! Report

      hello from the USA, I was looking for a Socceroo blog to exchange information prior to the playoff rounds in October and November. I consider myself knowledgeable on all things concacaf especially the teams you all hope to be facing in November (USA, Panama or Honduras) and don’t know the first thing about Australia or Syrian soccer. hope i am welcome and this is the blog to bookmark for the next few months..

      • September 7th 2017 @ 12:38pm
        Realist said | September 7th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Beto, this sight is an opinion site and there will be lots of opinions being thrown about for discussion or arguing. There is also a lot of chest beating “my sport is better than your sport” too. Feel welcome to drop by as there are some very educated posters on here that will offer insightful perspectives.

        Also, I know I for one, would like to know more about potential qualifying opponents, so would be good to get the view of someone that is knowledgeable with CONCACAF.

        Welcome and enjoy.

      • September 7th 2017 @ 2:59pm
        Gavin R said | September 7th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

        I would love an article around CONCACAF qualifying, even as we head into the playoff should we beat Syria.

        • September 8th 2017 @ 2:07am
          beto said | September 8th 2017 @ 2:07am | ! Report

          thanks for the welcome.

          sounds like our teams have both had frustrating qualifying runs. also i can’t think of another nation where we share so many of the same constraints like mls & hal, crazy travel, competition with other sports domestically, rotating home stadiums, etc

          here in concacaf we have 2 more qualifying matches in October. While the USA is currently in the playoff spot, there are a million different scenarios and most of them end up with Panama as the team facing off vs. AFC. the first game in October is USA vs. Panama in Orlando, Florida, USA and this match will be an absolute fist fight. Panama is on fire right now and do not want to get eliminated again by the US (2014 we knocked them out in the last second and their stadium went silent. meanwhile we sent mexico into the playoff vs new zealand – youtube it! my all time favorite moment in concacaf history). they have a veteran team, most key players are 30+, that has been runner up to the US or Mexico or Costa Rica over and over again. they are very physical and use their experience and size to slow down and grind out results. Last few, 3 or 4, US-Panama games have all been 1-1 going back to last cycles elimination.

          US on the other hand has been the most disappointing team in concacaf this cycle. we lost at home to mexico (first time since the 1980’s) and costa rica (both home and away – first time ever) in qualifying. as a long time fan I would describe us a team between generations. all time star landon donovan retired and legends f-clint dempsey, lw-demarcus beasley and gk-tim howard are hoping to get 1 more world cup in before retiring. the next generation of Americans look to be a talented group but so far only dortumund winger Christian Pulisic has broken thru. the 18 year old kid is already getting labeled as the most technical dribbler the US has ever seen but personally i am worried about how the team is over reliant on the kid especially when teams like panama send two defenders to rough him up every time he is on the ball. the rest of the team is good not great; stoke cb cameron is still in his prime, cm-michael bradley is talented but playing too soft imo since his move back to mls from roma and cf bobby wood is the only gritty forward that reminds me of the good old days of ’02 and ’10, ’14 world cup runs.

          honduras is crap, don’t worry about them they play costa rica and mexico in the last round. if some how you do end up with them in a playoff. rack up the goals at home (we got 6-0 vs them in march) because traveling to their stadium in san pedro de sula is just about as bad as i imagine some of your qualifiers in the far ends of asia are like. its hot, humid, playing in the muddy rough turf, 30k vuvzelas all day, the hotel fire alarm goes off all night before.. absolutely miserable. they have a player or two that can pull a miracle goal out of nothing but most of the time they prefer to screw around and make the game a sorry excuse for world cup qualifying.

          if you can watch it, try to catch the USA-Panama game as the loser will most likely be your concacaf opponent.

          that’s us – got to say everyone in the states is hoping we don’t have to talk about syria! i hear that game will be in kuala lampur? how do you feel about matching up with them? where in Australia will you play? whats your ideal Australia venue for a big game? always wondered about players flying in from europe, we have that issue to a much smaller degree, do the long flights negatively impact some players more than others? glad to see tim cahill still with the team! are there some players/formations that start vs scrappy afc teams and others you reserve for the matches in the more “official” games like when you went to russia? also interested in your opinion on japan, korea any any others going to the world cup – is anyone from afc going to make some noise in russia?

          best of luck – thanks for reading my novel of a blog post..

    • September 7th 2017 @ 11:55am
      Bob Downe said | September 7th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

      Watching the Socceroos play is like pulling pubic hair out with tweezers-Painful.
      Over inflated potential gives way to under performing reality so we beat -Bangladesh,Tajikistan,Jordan,Iraq,UAE X 2
      Saudi Arabia and Thailand all great world performing teams-not……..

      • September 7th 2017 @ 12:04pm
        Nemesis said | September 7th 2017 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Bob Downe

        You obviously don’t watch much international football? I suggest you check out Argentina’s last match. A bloke called Messi plays for them. He’s arguably the best player in the world, some suggest the best player of all time. They drew their last match at home against Venezuela, who have been more prominent in baseball than football & with the country on the brink of civil war.

        It staggers me why Aussies who are clueless about football, are drawn to the sport to comment.

        • September 7th 2017 @ 12:54pm
          Newie said | September 7th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report


          It’s also interesting to hear Scott McIntyre’s pre game wrap against Thailand on the DFS podcast. Hosing cold water everywhere, warning that the Thai’s could cause an upset, while all others were just guessing whether we would score double figures.

          France drew nil nil with Luxembourg… at home…

          And on another note – it’s worth checking out Ljubo Milicevic’s tweet about Postecoglu. Very realistic about how difficult football World Cup qualification is.

        • September 8th 2017 @ 7:39am
          j,binnie said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

          nemesis- You continually castigate people for voicing an opinion when in fact the figures generated by the Socceroos actually back up what many of them are saying
          In the year just gone,the Socceroos have played 14 matches. Here are the match figures in normal detail-

          Played 14: Won 5: Drawn 6: Lost 3. Goals scored 20: Goals against 20:

          I think you will agree these are not what one would term “world beating” figures.
          A further analysis does point out that the 3 losses were against a third choice German team and a second choice Brazilian team,while it is no secret that the recent Japanese team was made up of more than a few “new faces”.
          No shame in that you may say but it also has to be remembered the 5 wins were against what could be termed “mid eastern” teams, hardly what one would describe as “top class” in world rankings.
          But surely the most damning data is the goals for and against figures. To score 1.43 (average) goals per game is OK if you are playing a plan designed to “hold” a team and score on the break,but if,at the same time,your team is conceding 1.43 (average) goals then it makes that first figure,the goals for, totally meaningless.
          The Socceroos are not playing well,they are failing game after game to convert possession into penetration (goals) and no matter how you explain it away, the figures don’t lie. Cheers jb.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 8:05am
            Nemesis said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:05am | ! Report


            You do yourself a disservice by including practice matches in your analysis. Give me the figures without the practice matches & I’ll be interested in further analysis.

            And, I’m sure Ange’s philosophy is “score 1 more goal than the opposition”.

            The reason Australia is not yet going to Russia is due to only one result that was below expectations – the away draw with Thailand. Every other result was exactly what I would have reasonably predicted before at the start of the campaign.

            • September 8th 2017 @ 10:18am
              j,binnie said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

              Nemesis – True to form you are now trying to tell me that when the Socceroos were playing Germany, Brazil, Cameroon, and Chile we are only to regard them as “practice ” matches.
              Well if you believe that observation there is not a lot I can say that will change your mind. Cheers jb
              ps The same figures for those games were –
              Played 4: Won 0: Drawn 2:Lost 2: Goals for 4: Goals against 9: Will leave that analysis to you.jb.

            • September 8th 2017 @ 5:24pm
              hansi said | September 8th 2017 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

              Osieck got fired despite qualifying for the WC just for losing two practise matches against France and Brazil away… And most bogans still today bring up those two practise matches every time they defend their hero Ange….

              • September 8th 2017 @ 10:57pm
                j binnie said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:57pm | ! Report

                Hansi – Talking about statistics and how they reflect on performance,Osiek took the Socceroos to the WC finals & in doing so ran up a “success percentage” of 52.27%.
                Verbeek also took the Socceroos to the WC fInals & in doing so had an “SP” of 48.39%.
                Ange is stil to get the Socceroos there and to date his “SP” stands at 54.55%.
                Not really a huge differential between the 3 coaches is there? Cheers jb.

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