Australia's Matthew Spiranovic defends Japan's Takuma Asano during their World Cup qualifier in Saitama.
Australia's Matthew Spiranovic defends Japan's Takuma Asano during their World Cup qualifier in Saitama. Shuji Kajiyama

Socceroos' World Cup chances explained

FOR a country that didn't feature at the World Cup for a 32-year stretch between 1974 and 2006, Australia's participation at the biggest sporting event in the world has become a bit of a foregone conclusion in the past decade.

Not anymore. The Socceroos are in an extremely precarious position ahead of their final qualifying game for next year's tournament in Russia after losing 2-0 to Japan on Thursday night.

This is everything you need to know about how they end up in this position and what comes next.

What's the current state of affairs?

With one game left to play Australia is sitting third in its qualification group behind Japan - which secured its place at the Cup by winning - and Saudi Arabia.

The top two teams in the group secure a direct path to the tournament, so we need to jump up above Saudi Arabia after the final match.

To do that we need to better the Saudis' result by two goals, which won't be easy.

Australia is playing Thailand and will be expected to put a few goals past the worst team in the group on home soil.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia is playing Japan - the best team in the group - but they're also playing at home and the Japanese don't exactly have a lot to play for given they're already through.

When are the games?

Australia plays Thailand at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Tuesday at 8pm. Saudi Arabia plays a few hours later (Wednesday, 3.30am) so has the advantage of knowing exactly what result it needs by the time it kicks off.

 

Japan's Yosuke Ideguchi celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second half of the World Cup qualifier against Australia.
Japan's Yosuke Ideguchi celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second half of the World Cup qualifier against Australia. Masanori Inagaki

What's the back-up plan?

If Saudi Arabia holds spot two in the group all hope isn't lost, but the path to Russia becomes a lot trickier.

By finishing third we'd then have a home-and-away playoff against the third-placed finisher in Asia's group A - which could be either South Korea (currently on 14 points), Syria (12 points) or Uzbekistan (12 points).

If we survive that we'd then have to play an intercontinental home-and-away playoff against the fourth-ranked team from the CONCACAF - which is likely to be the United States or Panama.

How did we get in this position?

As much as the defeat against Japan hurt on Thursday night, it's not a fixture which we'll look back on with regret if we fail to qualify.

The two games that hurt the Socceroos the most were a 1-1 draw with Japan on home soil in October last year, and even more crucially, a 2-2 draw against lowly Thailand away from home a month later.

As the table above shows, Thailand has only managed two draws (and no wins) from its nine games. So to drop points against the South-East Asian nation was criminal.

What happens if we miss out?

Failing to make it to Russia would be a disaster for Australian football and likely spark significant change in the team and some serious reviews.

Coach Ange Postecoglou already plans to step down after the tournament next year, but non-qualification would likely bring forward his departure.

Socceroos legend Tim Cahill would be the first of a number of long-serving stars to retire, while plenty of players might find themselves pushed out of the national set-up.

News Corp Australia

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