Before we all panic about Tuesday night and ‘s crucial World Cup qualifier against Thailand, let’s stop, take a deep breath and remember.
We have been here before.
For those suffering the social media affliction (no recollection of what happened a week ago, never mind four years earlier) it’s worth recalling that as approached its final qualifying match for the World Cup in Brazil 2014 it was in an equally challenging position to that which it finds itself this coming week.
To make absolutely sure that they would qualify as runners-up behind Japan and secure an automatic qualifying spot in Brazil the Socceroos had to beat Iraq in Sydney.
Holger Osieck’s team – still containing the last remnants of the “golden generation” – made heavy weather of beating a second string Iraqi side crammed with what were then promising members of the Middle Eastern nation’s under 20 team.
It was not until lanky frontman Josh Kennedy, these days an analyst with Fox Sports but back then very much Osieck’s go-to man in case of emergency, came off the bench late in the game to head home the critical goal that gave the Socceroos a 1-0 win, ensuring that the subsequent result between Oman and Jordan would count for nothing. Had dropped points Osieck’s men could have been passed by Oman, although the result in Sydney made it academic. Oman, as it happens, lost anyway.
The Socceroos are not quite in exactly the same position but they are as close as they could be.
A thumping win over Thailand – say by a four goal margin – would ratchet the pressure on Saudi Arabia, who kick off against Japan in Jeddah some six hours after the n game finishes.
Japan qualified on Thursday night with their 2-0 win in Saitama, a deserved victory over an n team that never really got into the game.
That means that the Saudis, with 16 points and a goal difference of plus six, are ahead of in the race for second spot.
The equations are complex and varied, but the bottom line for Ange Postecoglou’s team is that if they can give the Thais a hiding they stand a strong chance of making it to Russia as an automatic qualifier.
A 3-0 win, for example, would put ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference (plus one) and goals scored (17 to 16).
That would mean that the Saudis would not only have to beat Japan, but to score at least two goals in the process.
If could beat the Thais by three a 1-0 win for the Saudis would not be sufficient.
In that scenario both nations would have 19 points, a goal difference of plus seven and both would have scored 17 goals. The final tie breaker between them would be the result of head to head matches during qualifying, and would go through by dint of having drawn in the Kingdom and beaten the Saudis in Adelaide this winter. However a 2-1 win for the Saudis would put them through.on goals scored, as both nations would have a goal difference of plus seven but the Saudis, in that scenario, would have scored 18 goals to ‘s 17.
Can the Socceroos do it?
Assuming they will beat the Thais comfortably is holding a hostage to fortune given that they failed to do better than get a point when they met in Bangkok, but in the circumstances has little option but to go for it.
The Socceroos cannot completely throw caution to the wind but need to keep the pressure up all night.
Thailand is out of contention, is backing up five days after a morale sapping home loss to Iraq and has nothing to play for save pride.
It will not like the cold conditions and if Melburnians can pack AAMI Park and turn it into a fortress, who knows what might be possible.
Nothing can be taken for granted, but the experience of four years ago tells us that good things can happen, they just might take until late in the piece to do so!