A disappointing draw against Oman means the Socceroos must do something they haven't done since 2009 to automatically qualify for the World Cup -- beat Japan.
The Socceroos will have end more than a decade of hurt against Japan to have any hope of qualifying automatically for this year's World Cup.
Socceroos World Cup Road
- Australia drew Oman 2-2 in Oman in their Matchday 8 of this round of World Cup qualification.
- The draw and Japan's win put them three points shy of an automatic qualification spot for Qatar 2022.
- If the Socceroos do not get an automatic qualification, they must pass through a playoff fourth round in order to attain a place in this year's FIFA World Cup.
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A frustrating 2-2 draw against a COVID-19 ravaged Oman in Muscat means Graham Arnold's team are facing the real prospect of having to reach Qatar 2022 via the playoffs in June.
Australia twice held the lead against the Omanis through goals from Jamie Maclaren and Aaron Mooy but a brace from Abdullah Fawaz, including a heartbreaking 89th-minute penalty, left the Socceroos facing an unenviable task to reach a fifth consecutive World Cup finals.
With two games to play, Australia are third in Group B, three points behind Japan and four behind leaders Saudi Arabia.
The Socceroos play the Samurai Blue in Sydney on March 24 before then travelling to the Middle East to take on the Saudis in their final group match.
With Japan's other match at home against bottom-placed Vietnam and Saudi Arabia taking on a struggling China, Arnold and his players have to win both matches and hope they retain an edge in their goal difference to secure an automatic spot.
Defeating the in-form Japanese, however, is no easy task, with Australia having played their Asian rivals eight times since a 2-1 win in 2009 without success.
"We need wins now," captain Mat Ryan told Network Ten.
"We prepare every game to win.
"Unfortunately, we haven't done that often enough hence we're in the position we are but we've got to do what we've got to do now in order to qualify and that's just win games."
If Australia are unable to secure a top-two finish they will need to defeat the third-placed nation from Group A, most likely the United Arab Emirates, and then the fifth-place finisher in South America's qualifying section.
Currently that is another old foe in Uruguay, who former Socceroos ace Luke Wilkshire is desperate for Australia to avoid.
"I can't remember a bigger game to qualify for a World Cup," Wilkshire said about the Japan clash.
"We don't want that third place.
"You don't want to have a play off against possibly the UAE and then potentially a Uruguay again... it's all to do."
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