The Socceroos face an incredibly long and arduous task of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after Saudi Arabia upset Japan in Jeddah overnight.
Australia beat 2-1 Thailand on Tuesday night in Melbourne, leaving the Saudis the difficult job of beating Japan, who had topped the group and already qualified for Russia.
Australia and Saudi Arabia both finished on 19 points in the Asian qualifying Group B. But the Saudis qualified due to a superior goal difference -- scoring one more goal and conceding one fewer over the course of their campaign.
If Australia had played their best game against Thailand and scored from their countless chances -- including at least five shots which hit the post -- then we would have been through automatically. Alas not.
Japan had vowed to play their best game despite not needing to win, but the Saudis outplayed them, winning 1-0.
Disappointing the Socceroos miss out on direct World Cup spot. Tough road ahead but just have to embrace the challenge & do it the hard way— Ned Zelic (@NedZelic) September 5, 2017
Australia will now play the third-placed team, Syria, in Group A in the Asian qualifying zone. Should the Socceroos win the two-leg home-and-away series, they will then face the fourth-placed team in CONCACAF -- the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.
Qualification for a fourth straight FIFA World Cup is now, on balance, looking more unlikely than likely.