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Thailand could hold Australia's key to the World Cup


Beat Thailand in a fortnight and the Socceroos will be in good shape to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup, coach Ange Postecoglou says.

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Australia is undefeated four games into the 10-game final phase of qualifying but lost its hold on Group B after last month’s uninspiring draw with Japan allowed Saudi Arabia to take the lead.

With the top two teams progressing directly to Russia 2018, and Japan just one point adrift in third, the Socceroos cannot afford a misstep against last-placed Thailand.

But should they win in Bangkok on November 15, Postecoglou feels the team will have laid strong foundations at the halfway point of the last stage.

“We’ve probably had 45 minutes of football I haven’t been happy with in the first four games – that first half against Japan,” he said.

“The rest we have been pretty strong.

“We’ve had a couple of really tough trips, so this first part of qualifying has been really important.

“If we can get three points in this game and be sitting on 11 points, with the program we have next year with three home games and the Iraq game in neutral territory, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Crucial to the group’s order will be the result of Saudi Arabia’s clash with Japan, also on November 15.

A Saudi victory would play to Australia’s favour by leaving perennial threats Japan lagging in third.

Shaping as next year’s toughest tests is a home match against Saudi Arabia and away meetings with Japan and Iraq, though the latter will be played in neutral territory.

The Socceroos will prepare to face Thailand in a rare 10-day camp in Bangkok from the start of next week.

Postecoglou considered playing a friendly in the first half of the international window before deciding several training sessions would be more beneficial.

While the camp will provide a chance for players such as Brisbane striker Jamie Maclaren to press his case for a competitive international debut, others will be under the microscope.

Veteran Tim Cahill was not the only player omitted over fitness concerns, with China-based striker Apo Giannou also left out and others nearing their limit.

“It’s not just Tim, these three months is our heaviest international period,” Postecoglou said.

“Just look at the travel and the loads put on the players in this period.

“There’s quite a few who are right on the threshold. I’ve had talks with a number of managers about this camp.

“We look at things from a holistic approach to make sure that those coming in are in the best possible condition.”


Saudi Arabia: P 4, W 3, D 1, L 0, GD 5, Pts 10

Australia: P 4, W 2, D 2, L 0, GD 3, Pts 8

Japan: P 4, W 2, D 1, L 1, GD 2, Pts 7

UAE: P 4, W 2, D 0, L 2, GD -1, Pts 6

Iraq: P 4, W 1, D 0, L 3, GD 0, Pts 3

Thailand: P 4, W 0, D 0, L 4, GD -9, Pts 0


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