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Australia vs Saudi Arabia

FIFA World Cup - 2018 Qualifiers - Asian Region - Round 3 - Group B - Match 8
Australia vs Saudi Arabia
at Adelaide Oval on 2017-06-08T09:30:00
Score: 3-2 (2-2)
Scorers: Tomi Juric (7', 36'), Tomas Rogic (64')
Official Info: Socceroos
Previous Match: Australia vs U.A.E.
Next Match: Australia vs Brazil

We got off to a bright start following their goalkeeper's slip-and-fall that allowed Juric to lob home into an open net in just the 7th minute. However, we failed to use this as a springboard to better things. The Saudis were good, our defence made mistakes and their equaliser was well-taken. Juric scored again to restore our lead and we looked to heading into the breaking on top (at least on the scoreboard) before another lapse saw the Saudis equalise again. 2-2 at half-time.

After four goals in the first half, it was perhaps not surprising that scoring was restricted n the second. Both coaches must have wanted to tighten up in this area and a draw would suit the Saudis. In the end, it took a moment of brilliance from Rogic whose 64th minute pile-driver gave us a lead that we hung onto to claim a very important win.

Update: Japan and Iraq drew - a result that probably helps us. With two rounds to go: Japan has 17 points and a +9 goal difference, Saudi Arabia - 16 (+7) and Australia - 16 (+6).

We must play Japan (away) and Thailand (home), Japan plays us (home) and Saudi Arabia (away), and the Saudis play U.A.E (away) and Japan (home). How it will end up is anyone's guess. Conceivably all three teams could earn 4 points from their final matches and we would finish third. Also of concern is that while U.A.E. are mathematically still capable of qualifying, this requires Australia to lose both of its final matches, so they don't have a lot to play for against the Saudis.

If we go on form and assume the Saudis beat the U.A.E. and we will beat Thailand, then we almost certainly need a result against Japan. If we lose to Japan, then we need Japan to beat Saudi Arabia, which they will have no incentive to do at that point. The Saudis would require only a draw in their final match and would be odds on to get at least that at home.

If we draw with Japan, then it gets interesting. Japan would need to win their last match, while the Saudis would still only require a draw. The odds would be in their favour to pull that off. If we beat Japan, then we're home and hosed.

So the match against Japan will be high-pressure as both teams need a win, with Australia a little more relaxed about a draw.

The Saudi Arabia vs U.A.E. match takes places a couple of days before we play Japan, so we can review at that point. The timing of the matches in the final round may also prove key. They are on the same "match day" but I doubt kick-off times will be synchronised (due to timezones). It's conceivable both Japan and Saudi Arabia will know what they need from their final match (against each other) to finish in front of Australia.