The Australian national team has failed in its attempt to lift the mood of the nation over the past couple of weeks, as the team weren’t able to book their passage through to the World Cup finals in Qatar. The final rounds of fixtures in the AFC World Cup qualification were played earlier this week, and the sides that have automatically booked their place at the biggest soccer event on the planet have been confirmed.
However, for Australia, there will now be massive games ahead in June, as the side looks to regain their composure and somehow make it through two fixtures to reach the World Cup.
How Did The Qualification Group End
The writing was already on the wall for Australia before they even played their final qualifier against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The defeat against Japan last week meant that automatic qualification was no longer attainable, and a third-place finish in their group was the very best that they could manage. If anything, the last two fixtures against emerging nations in the soccer world have only highlighted just how far Australia are falling short in their attempts to reach the World Cup.
Failure to reach the World Cup this year would be the first time that they have fallen short since 2002. Fans of the sport will be hopeful that history isn’t set to repeat itself, as the Aussies failed to make the World Cup in every edition of the tournament between 1978 and 2002.
In truth, Australia was handed a very tough-looking group in the third qualification round. But, fans still would have expected to reach the finals in Qatar when drawn alongside Saudi Arabia, who have only previously played in one edition of the previous four tournaments.
What Went Wrong?
Things were looking very good with Australia’s bid to reach the World Cup heading into February, but the form of the side just fell apart. Australia were held by Oman in their final qualifier in the winter, which was an extremely poor result considering Oman were among the main outsiders to challenge for a World Cup spot.
However, even with that set back, Australia would have been aware that two wins from their final two games could have been enough to finish in one of the two automatic spots. A 2-0 defeat against Japan on March 24th ended all hope, while a 1-0 defeat against Saudi Arabia just compounded the misery of Aussies. Australia must improve at both ends of the pitch in the fourth round, as they managed to score just 15 goals in ten qualifiers, and allowed ten goals.
When Does The Fourth Round Take Place?
The date for the diary for all Aussies is June 7th, as the sides that finished third in their respective groups in the third round meet in a one-legged playoff. The winner of this tie will then progress through to an inter-confederation playoff tie. Australia will come up against the United Arab Emirates in the fourth round of qualification, as the UAE finished third behind South Korea and Iran.
The United Arab Emirates have only previously played in one World Cup, with that appearance coming back in 1990 as they lost all three games at the finals. Australia will be the heavy favourites for soccer bettors, as the UAE managed to win just three games in the third round of qualification. Furthermore, they only managed to score seven goals. However, they do look like a solid defensive unit, having only conceded the same amount.
What Happens If Australia Win In The Fourth Round?
Winning in the fourth round of AFC qualification is only the first step for Australia. Victory over the UAE in June will then set up a massive winner-take-all showdown against Peru on either June 13th or 14th. The inter-confederation playoff sees the team that finished fifth in the CONMEBOL region take on the team that is successful in the fourth round of AFC qualification.
While many fans will feel as though Australia should get the better of the UAE, the test against Peru will be the big one. Peru ended their long wait to return to the World Cup in 2018, as they were previously involved in the event in 1982 before that. The final game in their group stage will be one remembered by both Aussies and Peruvians, as Peru recorded a 2-0 win against Australia with Andre Carrillo and Jose Guerrero scoring the goals.
It will be no easy feat to reach the World Cup for Australia, as they will need to do it the hard way. However, if they are successful in making it to Qatar, they will already be aware of who they could come up against at the World Cup, as the draw for the finals takes place on April 1st before the fourth round of qualification.