To qualify for the World Cup in Russia next year, the Caltex Socceroos will have to go through the playoffs after Ange Postecoglou’s men ended third in Group B overnight.
CONFIRMATION OF PLAYOFF
Australia will now meet Syria in October over two legs in the AFC playoff after a mammoth night (and morning) of drama, passion and excitement in Melbourne and Jeddah to complete Group B’s final matchday.
Saudi Arabia finished second after a 1-0 win over Japan in Jeddah.
Australia defeated Thailand 2-1 but it wasn't enough in the end.
So, if Australia are to qualify for the next World Cup they'll have to do it the hard way now.
The winner of the AFC playoff will face another playoff against the fourth best side in the CONCACAF group.
GOOD START IN MELBOURNE
Australia began the night earning the three points needed after defeating Thailand in Melbourne on Tuesday night (AEST) 2-1.
So, it was over to Jeddah for Saudi Arabia hosting Japan.
There the equation was relatively simple: the Saudis needed to win to progress as automatic qualifiers given they had a better goal difference than Australia.
A draw or a loss wouldn’t be good enough for Bert Van Marwijk’s Green Falcons.
And after the Samurai Blue sealed World Cup qualification last week, hopes were high that Australia might be helped by a draw or win to Japan.
It wasn’t to be.
SAUDIS WITH FAMOUS WIN
The Saudis were revitalised in the second half after a subdued opening 45, and went ahead just after the hour with a smashing strike by young substitute Fahad Al Muwallad.
The home side, willed on by a 62,000 plus crowd at the King Abdullah could sense it.
In the end they won 1-0 and finished just a whisker ahead of Australia on the same points but with a better goal difference.
For Australia, the route to World Cup qualification just got a whole lot more complicated.
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