Australia’s football World Cup hopes rest on Thailand clash

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Canberra, Sep 3 (IANS) Australia’s demoralising defeat to Japan in their football World Cup qualifier means the Socceroos must convincingly win their final match against Thailand next Tuesday night in order to make it to the 2018 World Cup.

Australia face the Thais, who sit at the bottom in their qualifying group, in the boom-or-bust clash at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, in a match which is expected to draw a sell-out crowd as well as a nationwide television audience, reports Xinhua news agency.

The ideal result for the Socceroos would be victory by at least two goals, which would put major pressure on Saudi Arabia to earn a point out of their final match against Japan, scheduled to be played after the Socceroos’ fixture.

Australia sit alevel with the Saudis on 16 points, yet have a goal difference deficit of two, meaning they will not have full control of their own destiny going into the final game of the qualifying stages.

In the light of the disappointing result in Japan last Thursday, when they lost 0-2 in Saitama, former Socceroo goalkeeper and now football pundit Mark Bosnich delivered a scathing analysis of the performance.

“We were well beaten… we are far too predictable. Once again, we put (Tom) Juric and (Tim) Cahill on and still had to wait four or five minutes to get an actual decent cross into the box. The penetration was poor,” Bosnich told Australian media on Friday.

Like Bosnich, ex-Socceroo Robbie Slater was bitterly disappointed at his country’s performance. “We were comprehensively beaten by a better side. We had little periods here and there, but no, we were beaten by a much better side tonight,” Slater told Australian media.

Australian coach Ange Postecoglou said he was devastated by the defeat and took full responsibility for his side’s inability to seriously challenge the Japanese.

The Australians will potentially receive a huge boost heading into the Thailand fixture, with star player Aaron Mooy having a chance to return from an illness that kept him on the sidelines against Japan. The creative midfielder has been in blistering form in the English Premier League for newly promoted club Huddersfield Town and is an integral part of the Socceroos’ lineup.

Despite having qualified for the past three World Cups in 2006, 2010 and 2014, Australia have struggled to progress past the group stage in the tournament, having not done so since Germany 2006 when they famously lost to Italy in the round of 16.

The focus of Postecoglou’s team, however, will be solely directed towards Tuesday night as they prepare for one final bid to qualify for Russia 2018.

–IANS

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