Mad about football and blessed with talent, Australia started the 2018 World Cup qualification as one of the favourites to book an automatic spot in Russia but that is out of their hands now. As things stand, Ange Postecoglou’s are third in Group B with 16 points from nine matches, level on points with second-placed Saudi Arabia and four points behind leaders (and winners) Japan.
This means that Japan have already booked their place in Russia, with Saudi Arabia set to join them from Group B. Bert van Marwijk’s side are ahead of the Australians on goal difference in second place and, at the moment, they are the favourites to progress as group runners-up. With just one more round of matches remaining in the group stage of the qualification campaign in Asia, things are looking bleak for Australia.
Australia could have made things much easier for themselves had they performed better against Japan in the penultimate round of matches in Saitama on Thursday night. The Socceroos lost 2-0, allowing Japan to book their place in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. Japan were the better team over the 90 minutes and exposed Australia’s defensive frailties. Australia struggled throughout the 90 minutes in keeping the Japan attackers at bay and also lacked a cutting edge in attack.
For any team to be successful in a qualification campaign, they need to be strong in defence. Australia were anything but. While Japan have conceded just six goals in nine matches in Group B, Australia have shipped as many as 10. True, Saudi Arabia have also let in 10 goals but they have scored two more, which is why they are now the favourites to join Japan in the World Cup in Russia from the group.
Australia, though, still have a chance of finishing second in Group B. For that to happen, they simply have to win against Thailand at home on September 5. The match at AAMI Park in Melbourne is going to be massive and the Socceroos have to be on top of their game. Thailand do not have a chance of finishing in the top three of the group and, although Australia will head into the game as favourites, it is hard to predict the exact scoreline. Pundits in the betting industry will have a much better idea though, and you can see the results for yourself on the Sports Predictor website if you fancy placing a wager on the exact scoreline by which Australia could win against Thailand.
The Aussies, though, cannot get complacent, as Saudi Arabia are playing Japan on the same day they are taking on Thailand. With Japan having already progressed to the World Cup, they are unlikely to take the match too seriously and may not field a strong team. That would only hand the advantage to the Green Falcons, who will be hugely motivated to pick up all three points against Japan.