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Socceroos World Cup qualifier fixture locked in

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13th December, 2021
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Graham Arnold has called on Socceroos fans to fill AAMI Park for a key World Cup qualifier against Vietnam on January 27, as Australia set their sights on earning a direct berth for Qatar 2022.

Football Australia on Monday confirmed Melbourne will host the Socceroos for the first time since a 2-1 qualifying win over Thailand in September 2017 on their long route to qualifying for Russia 2018.

The Socceroos’ current qualification campaign is delicately poised, with Australia (11 points) third in Group B behind Saudi Arabia (16 points) and Japan (12 points).

Australia beat Vietnam 1-0 in Hanoi earlier in qualifying and, after an away loss to Japan, a home draw against Saudi Arabia and an away draw with China, desperately need another three points before travelling to face Oman on February 1.

Arnold’s men have played five of their six matches so far in this phase away from home because of international travel restrictions.

“The fact that we’ve been through everything that we’ve been through and everything is in our own hands is the best,” Arnold said.

“It would’ve been great to get three points against China. It does feel like a loss, but it wasn’t.

“We’ve got four games left and we are looking for favours, but we’ve got everything in our own hands.

“The most important thing for me is to take one game at a time, get ready for Vietnam and be here in front of a full house.”

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If the Socceroos miss out on a top-two spot in Group B they could still qualify for a fifth-straight World Cup via the playoffs.

But that path is a treacherous one, even more so after the intercontinental play-off draw put Asia’s play-off winners on a collision course with the fifth-best side in South America.

“My belief is that first or second spot is still there,” Arnold said.

“The other two (Saudi Arabia and Japan) have to play each other next window, so we’ll focus on ourselves and make sure we get our things right and get the job done.”

Arnold was forced to pick players who were underdone for last month’s qualifiers but is buoyed by the fact the likes of Melbourne City stars Jamie Maclaren, Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout will have plenty of game time under the belts by next month, with the A-League Men season now in full swing.

“For me that was the biggest issue last window,” Arnold said.

“The A-League has started so I can now pick players on form, not reputation.

“For me the most important thing from today until that FIFA window is match minutes.”

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Football Australia chief executive James Johnson thanked Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC for agreeing to bring forward their A-League Women/Men double-header a day to January 25 to allow AAMI Park to host the Word Cup qualifier.

The game will also be the first Socceroos or Matildas match held outside of NSW since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

© AAP

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