In September I said that Australia had nothing to be worried about with regards to World Cup qualifying, but I couldn’t be more wrong now.
I said that because Japan were struggling back then and their manager looked tactically inept.
But I underestimated the impact of them missing some of their Europe-based players and coach Hajime Moriyasu is actually doing a good job of learning from his tactial mistakes, unlike Graham Arnold.
Japan looked completely in control against Vietnam and in the second half against Oman.
Losing 2-1 away to Japan wasn’t very concerning, given that Saitama is a fortress for Japan, the Socceroos hadn’t beaten Japan since 2009, and that the Socceroos still held a three-point lead over Japan after the game.
But Australia missed an opportunity to beat Saudi Arabia and were pathetic against China.
Do you think that it rains a lot in the Middle East? The conditions completely favoured Australia, and although they played well for most of the game, they couldn’t finish off their chances.
This is in part due to Graham Arnold being stubborn and still refusing to start Jamie Maclaren. I’m positive that had Maclaren started, Australia would’ve won.
Also, Australia looked vulnerable defensively late in the game because Arnold didn’t make the right defensive substitutions, and could’ve lost if not for Matt Ryan making a wonder save to deny Salem Al-Dawsari.
This game did raise more alarm bells, since Japan had beaten Vietnam on the same day, but Australia were still firmly in control of their destiny.
The performance against China today was completely pathetic, much worse than the Saudi game. This is the same team that the Socceroos had beaten 3-0 in September.
How they couldn’t break down an average defence is beyond me. It’s not like the Chinese defence had a good day either.
Australia lacked creativity and attacking intent. Australia had a lot of the ball, but did almost nothing meaningful with it.
Awer Mabil is easily the most creative player on the Socceroos and if he had started, more attacking intent would’ve been shown and more chances would’ve been created.
From a quick look at the table, Australia still have a chance to qualify directly, but their chances of direct qualification took a huge hit after the latest round of results.
Saudi Arabia have been superb so far and are almost guaranteed to qualify directly. They just need to beat China away and Oman at home in order to officially qualify, and I think Saudi Arabia will win both games.
Even if they only win one of them, a result against either Japan or Australia should be good enough for them to qualify.
The more realistic path for Australia to directly qualify would be to overtake Japan and finish second.
Japan play three out of their remaining four games at home, including games against China and Vietnam that they should win.
On the other hand, Australia have to still play away to Oman, against Japan and away to Saudi Arabia.
Both Japan and Saudi Arabia struggled to win in Oman when they were playing well, so it’ll be a tall order for the Socceroos to win there.
Beating Japan at home would be crucial to Australia’s direct qualifying hopes, but Australia hasn’t beaten Japan since 2009.
Finally, every single away team that has played in Jeddah so far in the 2022 qualification cycle has lost.
It’s very likely that Australia will have to take the long road again if they are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Now fans just have to hope that the AFC draws the OFC in the inter-confederation playoffs.