With Australia suddenly in a tight three-way arm-wrestle for automatic World Cup qualification, midfielder James Jeggo is convinced they will hold their nerve on the final stretch to Qatar 2022.
The 2-1 loss in Japan followed by Friday’s disappointing goalless homecoming against Saudi Arabia has stripped away the Socceroos’ aura of infallibility going into Wednesday morning’s (AEDT) clash against China in Sharjah.
They trail the Group B leading Green Falcons by three points at the halfway point and while they reman a point clear of improving Japan, the duel against the Chinese has taken on must-win connotations.
Jeggo, though, has no doubt Graham Arnold’s side will reprise the sort of form and finishing prowess which earned them a 3-0 victory over China back in September.
Australia’s man of the match against the Saudis in Sydney, Jeggo told FTBL that nobody should be shocked to see fine margins emerging in the race to reach Qatar.
“It’s still all in our hands and after five games we’re still in a very good position,” said the Aris Thessaloniki number six.
“We’ve not gotten carried away by the big picture and have focused on each performance all the way through the group.
“We’re in final phase of qualifying for a World Cup and there are a lot of good teams in Asia trying to do the same thing.
“But this group of players know what it takes and history has shown us it is always generally quite tight - that’s why we just focus on ourselves and make sure we’re doing everything we can to put ourselves in the best position.
“Up until now we’ve done that.
“The feeling amongst the boys after the Saudi game was that we’re heading in the right direction but there’s still a lot we can improve on.”
Standing in for the unavailable Aaron Mooy, Jeggo, 29, was the personification of calm assurance and dependability in his screening role against the Saudis.
But it was the lack of a forensic cutting edge further up the field which would have concerned Arnold in the absence of the injured Adam Taggart.
“Throughout the whole campaign there have been areas where we can improve, individually and collectively," added Jeggo.
“That didn’t change off the back of the Saudi match. The message is to get better going into the China game.
“The fact we beat them before is a positive but you need to take every game on its merits, and we’re not really focusing on what happened before.
“We’ll analyse them closely and make sure there’s no stone unturned and we’re ready to go.”
On his own growing influence and importance to Arnold’s game planning, Jeggo said: “You just want to do all you can to help the team and make sure that we as a group are successful and that’s what I try and do every time I play.”