On an evening of high drama, World Cup qualifiers across seven time zones saw Saudi Arabia and South Korea qualify for the World Cup in Russian Federation, whilst Australia and Syria will now face each other for a place in the AFC-CONCACAF play-off.
2018 will be Saudi’s first World Cup finals appearance since Germany in 2006.
In an incredible outcome, the Socceroos will now face-off with Syria in an Asian tie next month after the Syrians snared third spot in Group A following a 2-2 draw with Tehran.
Mansour Al-Harbi clipped the woodwork with a strike from a tight angle after a swift break down the left, but the frustrations of the home fans were beginning to build as Japan started to assume more control of the play.
Everything began to unravel for the Socceroos on Tuesday night when despite numerous opportunities to score, they had to rely on an 86th-minute victor from Mathew Leckie to break the deadlock after Pokklaw Anan stunned the home side four minutes earlier against the run of play.
If Australia are forced into the playoffs, they will face a two-leg tie against third position in group A (currently Syria), before facing fourth place in CONCACAF qualifying (currently Honduras) home-and-away to book a spot at next year’s tournament.
Ange Postecoglou reacts after Thailand scores a goal against the Socceroos last night.
Japan already qualified with its 2-0 win over Australia last week.
After a week of global football with stars in action to make things work for their respective countries in the World Cup qualifiers, seven teams have booked their spot in the much awaited tournament, other than the host country Russian Federation.
“It’s heartbreaking for the players”.
BELGIUM: Belgium has been the first nation to get selected after they defeated Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece in the qualifying stage.
Despite dominating possession, the Socceroos were unable to find the back of the net until deep into the second half.
Mr Al Jubeir made clear that the quartet anticipated the stalemate will hold for some time, saying that if the Qatar crisis continued for another two years “so be it”.
Australia overcame a gritty Thailand side 2-1 at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium but will now have to settle for the play-off route to keep their FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 hopes alive.