In West Asia, when it comes to World Cup qualifiers, it’s never that straightforward, even for an Ange Postecoglou-coached side.
Australia showed the mental fortitude to come back from a goal down against an opponent that pressed hard early.
They bossed large parts of this entertaining clash in Jeddah, but in the end it just had to be “The Earthquake” who had his say.
The challenge of playing in West Asia was underlined a year ago almost to the day when Jordan deservedly defeated the Caltex Socceroos in Amman 2-0.
Jeddah on Friday morning was another reminder.
Big, passionate and intimidating crowds, pumped up opposition, quality players and the heat (though it was significantly cooler in Jordan) show how much of a challenge it is to play away – especially when Australia concede first.
The differences between now and a year ago, though, are quality and belief.
As shown last month in Abu Dhabi, the Australian squad is now a stronger, more experienced one, and the Ange philosophy is now so ingrained, the players and the game plan don’t fall apart when things go awry.
It’s just a pity Australia couldn’t hold on in Jeddah.
In the end, Nasser Al Shamrani – dubbed “The Earthquake” - shook a packed King Abdullah Sports City Stadium with his late goal. Lucky to a degree but like any good striker Johnny on the spot in the box thereby keeping the Saudis in the game and unbeaten in three.
It was a measure of revenge on Australian football after the infamous 2014 ACL final loss for Al-Hilal and the ugly aftermath.
In fact, had it not been for Mat Ryan’s excellent stop after the Saudis broke through the Aussie backline in the final, frantic few minutes, it might have been 3-2 in Jeddah.
A year ago, the fabulous Jordanian striker Hamza Al-Dardour caused our defence all sorts of problems.
This time in Saudi it was the Al Hilal man Nawaf Al Abed who engineered most of the danger (his assist to set up the opener was top drawer).
In truth, Australia was not at its fluent best, though Tom Rogic again showed why he’s such a rising star of the national team and Celtic.
And Tomi Juric continues to press his claims for a starting XI berth after another goal.
Japan now awaits next Tuesday night.
The Japanese controversially defeated Iraq overnight with some late drama in Saitama, and are one point behind Australia and the Saudis.
They aren’t in trouble in the group but a win for the Australians and three points for Saudi at home to UAE will ramp up the heat on the Samurai Blue.
It should be a fabulous game at Docklands between two technical, attacking teams.
And back on home soil after their trip back from Jeddah, the unbeaten Australians will relish the home support.
You sense Tim Cahill - who sat on the bench for the whole game in Jeddah - might again have his say in his new hometown Melbourne.
Poll: choose your Caltex Socceroos starting XI to face Colombia in London
After Saturday morning’s (AEDT) loss to Norway, the Caltex Socceroos get a chance at redemption when they take on Colombia in London. Coach Bert van Marwijk handed debuts to the likes of Dimitri Petratos, Andrew Nabbout and Aleksandar Susnjar in Oslo and is sure to freshen up
What’s next for the Caltex Socceroos?
While Bert van Marwijk’s debut game as Caltex Socceroos coach didn’t go to plan, the side gets a chance to put things right when they take on Colombia in London on Wednesday morning (Australian time). The South Americans are a dangerous side, having beaten Australia’s Group C
Opponent Watch: Deschamps slams ‘cocky’ France
The Caltex Socceroos weren’t the only team in pre-World Cup friendly action this weekend, with all three of their Group C opponents in Russia featuring in matches. And Australia’s first opponents at the World Cup France suffered a setback in their preparations against Colombia
Analysis: debutants Petratos, Susnjar the positives after Oslo loss
Result aside, Dimi Petratos and Aleksandar Susnjar had assured debuts on Saturday morning. It was encouraging to see two starting XI debutants given a chance in Bert van Marwijk’s first game in charge. REPORT: Caltex Socceroos undone by Norway in BvM's maiden match ANAL