The Socceroos will have to do it the hard way if they are to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after finishing third in Group B of Asian Qualifying.
Tuesday’s final group matches saw the Aussies defeat Thailand 2-1 while Saudi Arabia defeated Japan 1-0 to force Ange Postecoglou’s side into the AFC-CONCACAF playoff stages.
Tim Cahill started for the first time since the Confederations Cup clash with Chile earlier in the year and the attacker went agonisingly close to opening the scoring after 17 minutes as his shot from just outside the area hit the right post and flashed across the goal line to the disappointment of the 26 thousand strong crowd.
Cahill exited the game after 57 minutes for Robbie Kruse as the Socceroos found two goals after the all-time leading goal scorer’s departure through Tomi Juric and Matt Leckie.
The three points however wasn’t enough for the Green and Gold to automatically qualify for the last 32 of the competition as a sole Fahad Al-Muwallad strike in Jeddah secured Saudi Arabia’s ticket to Russia, qualifying ahead of the ‘Roos by goal difference.
What’s next for the Socceroos?
It’s the AFC-CONCACAF playoffs for Ange Postecoglou’s side meaning they will have to play four more games to qualify for the World Cup.
First up it’s Syria in a two-leg clash in October with the war-torn nation defying the odds to finish third in Group A.
Syria have played their qualifying matches out of Malaysia thus far and it is still unknown where the Aussies will travel to in the away leg against the Syrians.
If the Socceroos get through that, they play in a two-leg cross-confederation clash with the nation that finishes fourth in the North and Central America and Carribean qualifiers (CONCACAF) which at this stage could be Honduras, Panama or the USA.