12 years ago, John Aloisi scored the famous penalty against Uruguay that sent the Socceroos to their first World Cup since 1974, that moment will forever be remembered as one of the greatest in Australian sporting history. Now, the present day Socceroos are out to achieve the same feat. Despite not being in the same cutthroat position that occurred in 2005, the Socceroos must win or rely on other results to secure a place in Russia next year. This leads to a tantalizing match-up with Thailand in Melbourne on Tuesday night. The game is set to be a sell-out at AAMI Park, as fans await the possibility of World Cup qualification. Socceroos will take on a Thailand outfit that should not be underestimated. Thailand sits on the bottom of the qualification table, with only two draws and 22 goals scored against them. However, one of those draws came against Australia in November last year. For Thailand to do that again they must challenge the Socceroos on their home turf in unfavorable weather conditions for the away team.
There has been a great deal of pressure on Head Coach Ange Postecoglou in the lead up to the match, particularly from the local media. Some questioning Postecoglou’s capability to help his team qualify and go on to achieve greater success. More and more criticism has come throughout the Qualification campaign as the side has failed to capitalize on its opportunities to qualify. However, Postecoglou’s track record speaks for itself. Since being appointed as Head Coach in 2013, he has led the Socceroo’s to an honorable Group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup and victory at the Asia Cup in 2015. Despite past achievements, the pressure is well and truly building after a winless campaign at the Confederations Cup this year. If the Socceroo’s are unable to qualify for next years World Cup, it may spell the end of Postecoglou’s tenure as the coach of the Australian Nation Team.
A win against Thailand would just about book a place in Russia. However, the qualification process largely depends on the other group match being played between Japan and Saudi Arabia. Australia currently sits in third place equal on points with Saudi Arabia but two goals behind on goal difference. The third placed team in the group must go through two rounds of playoffs in order to qualify. Firstly, against the third placed team in the other group from Asia, if successful they must play the team from CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) in order to qualify for the World Cup. Therefore, direct qualification through the groups is ideal.
A number of scenarios can play out for the Socceroos to qualify, the most basic; Australia win and Saudi Arabia lose or draw against Japan then Australia directly qualify. However, if Australia and Saudi Arabia both win, draw or lose their respective matches then Australia would need to better Saudi Arabia’s winning margin by two goals or more to qualify directly. If Australia draws or loses and Saudi Arabia win, then Australia will go into third place and face two rounds of playoffs in order to qualify. Finally, if Australia loses and UAE beat Iraq and better Australia’s winning margin by seven goals then Australia would miss out on qualification completely.
With the ‘golden generation’ of Australian football now in the past and it is time for the new faces of the Socceroos to stand up and do the nation proud. The likes of Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic, who have been doing great things on the world stage, must now deliver for their country. There is no doubt that the squad has an abundance of skill and is capable of great success but to reach their ultimate goal they must overcome their next challenge. All going right against Thailand on Tuesday night and other results falling into place, then the Socceroos will be on their way to Russia 2018.