The Socceroos registered their first World Cup qualifying defeat in 12 matches and their first loss since June 2019 with defeat to Japan.
The Socceroos' historic winning streak is over after their loss to Japan on matchday 4 of the third round of AFC 2022 World Cup qualification. The scoreline finished 2-1 in favour of the Samurai Blue with the game winner coming from an Australian own goal.
Socceroos vs Japan Results
- Australia's historic winning streak is over.
- Japan got the win through an Australian own goal.
- Saudi Arabia have overtaken Australia and now top Group B.
Lined up in 4-3-3 formation, the Socceroos starting were Matt Ryan, Frank Karačić, Trent Sainsbury, Harry Souttar, Aziz Behich, Jackson Irvine, Ajdin Hrustić, Aaron Mooy, Martin Boyle, Tom Rogić and Adam Taggart.
As Arnold had indicated prior the the game, the starting line up saw several players being swapped from the previous Oman match to add energy and fresh legs. Rhyan Grant dropped to the bench in place of Karačić and Aaron Mooy got the pick over Awer Mabil.
Japan were quick out of the gate, opening the scoring in the 8th minute of play. Takumi Minamino put a cross into Australia's box which took a deflection. Behich had been in position to clear it but was unable due to the deviation of the ball.
Instead the ball found by Ao Tanaka who was able to get it past Ryan in to the corner of the net. The goal put Japan up by 1-0 and seemed to remove some of the pressure facing the home side who had lost twice in their previous three qualification matches.
Australia for their part got a chance on goal minutes later. A Hrustić corner deflected back to him. He took a shoot near post and forced Japanese goalkeeper Shūichi Gonda to act and deny Australia the equalizer.
Australia's best chance of the first half came courtesy of Taggart. Receiving a good pass in the box from Rogić, his shot was deflected by Gonda and hit the post. Mooy shot it on the follow up but it was stopped by a Japanese defender.
The Australians opened second half more on the front foot than had been displayed in the first half. Their build up was better but the final pass was still often off target. Arnold made his first changes two thirds of the way through the game, replacing Taggart and Mooy with Duke and Mabil.
Four minutes later it looked like the Socceroos would have a chance to equalize. A challenge on Hrustić was deemed a penalty by the referee. However, it was then subsequently overturned by VAR and deemed a free-kick just outside the box.
Hrustić, known for his free-kicking abilities, then capitalized and scored a world class curling goal to equalize. The score was now 1-1 at the 69th minute.
Japan kept attacking, hoping to turn their qualifying campaign fortunes around. Mat Ryan was forced to intervene in the 75th minute with a double save to keep things even at the Saitama Stadium. He again came to Australia's rescue five minutes later denying Asano the lead.
Arnold made another change, bringing on Jeggo in the 82nd minute for Rogić. Disaster then struck four minutes later.
Asano received a great pass in Australia's box. He turned and immediately took a shot requiring an intervention by Ryan. The ball hit the far post but then deflected off Behich into Australia's net. Japan were now up 2-1.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions requiring the 14000 plus fans in the stadium to only clap and not cheer, the crowd was now animated and openly vocal. This seemed to buoy Japan's energy in the closing minutes of the game.
Arnold made two more changes bringing on Grant and Ikonomidis for Boyle and Karačić. The fresh legs were not able to turn the tide. Japan won the game ending Australia's streak.
The loss dropped the Socceroos to second in Group B. Undefeated Saudi Arabia now top it with 12 points. Oman and Japan are in third and fourth place respectively, 3 points behind Australia.
The Socceroos next meet Saudi Arabia in a home game on November 11, 2021. There is no confirmation yet whether the home game will be allowed to be held in New South Wales.
The full AFC Qualification schedule can be found using the following link.