So the final twelve are decided for the last and most important chapter in the Socceroos qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
The last time the groups of six were decided, there were six pots of two teams based on FIFA rankings. Presuming they use the same approach this time, that means the following pots:
A – Japan (28); Iran (31)
B – South Korea (39); Australia (41)
C – Saudi (65); Iraq (68)
D – UAE (73); China (77)
E – Syria (79); Oman (80)
F – Vietnam (92); Lebanon (93)
The good news – we only have to play one of Japan and Iran and we can’t play South Korea.
The bad news – I wouldn’t feel comfortable against ANY of these sides.
It is testament to how far Asian football has improved that all of these teams are dangerous. And if we lose our home advantage by having to play in a Middle Eastern hub – I think we’re in trouble.
Looking at a potential group of Japan; Australia; Saudi; UAE; Syria and Vietnam – we are really up against it to qualify. With the exception of Japan I’d be confident against all comers at home, but away?
Our home form since we’ve been in Asia has been outstanding – winning nearly every game in the last decade. Away from home, in hot conditions on bumpy or sodden pitches, we are far less convincing.
I would hate Australia having to play in (say) Kuwait again – or anywhere else in the Gulf States. Japanese conditions would be okay – or South Korean – but those countries have major Covid problems. Yes the Olympics are going ahead (at the moment) but there are massive demonstrations against it and allowing another hub in coming months would be political seppuku.
I’d be happy enough in South Korea, if that could be arranged, but just about anywhere else sees a massive loss of any advantage we might have location-wise.
It will be hard to argue against a Middle Eastern hub with so many teams coming from that part of the world so we might just have to suck it up. What I would really love to see, given the quality of our infrastructure and strong record of holding international tournaments, is for Australia to offer itself as a hub.
The Afghani and English cricketers are coming over the next six months, so why not the footballers?
We know there is little political muscle behind football despite it’s popularity at grassroots level but why shouldn’t we be doing everything we can as a country to qualify for the biggest sporting event in the world?
The whole thing could be locked down – in the same way the Socceroos are currently locked down in Kuwait – with all teams located in either Sydney or Melbourne where there’s plenty of infrastructure. Sydney might be better as Wollongong, Gosford and Newcastle could also be used in a period when other codes will have first call on the bigger grounds – at weekends.
This is surely possible. We should be trying to make it happen but with an NRL loving Prime Minister and any number of AFL cronies in Canberra – you can bet there’ll be more lobbying against football getting a go than for.
We need to let our elected representatives know how we feel about this.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His new novel, Welcome to Ord City, is now available.