Socceroos World Cup qualifying group preview

Australia may not be in action on Thursday evening but there is plenty going on in Group B in the second round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Bangladesh hosts Kyrgyzstan while Jordan travels to Tajikistan. All four will be hoping to get off to a good start before the Asian Champions join the party.

The AFC draw for 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

None of the four have ever been to the World Cup although technically Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were represented at various tournaments as part of the Soviet Union as separate entities. 

However, Jordan has come the closest. That was not that long ago, either. In 2013, the men from Amman got all the way to the final continental play-off only to be understandably outclassed by Uruguay, one of the best teams in the world, losing 5-0 at home but managing a goalless draw away. 

There was no disgrace in that but there was disappointment at the Asian Cup in January as Al-Nashama looked flat and short of ideas against Iraq and Japan, though they were too strong for Palestine.

Former Manchester United and AC Milan man Ray Wilkins is no longer there and has been replaced by Ahmed Abdel Qader. Results have not been anything to write back home about with defeats to Syria and Saudi Arabia and a drab goalless draw with Lebanon conspiring to drop the team out of FIFA's top 100.

Jordan at the Asian Cup

Still hard to beat at home, Jordan will be looking to pick up points on the road to ensure that second spot - and this is the realistic objective - is not a source of stress. It all starts in Tajikistan.

“We will spare no effort to put Jordan back at the forefront of Asian teams. We need a lot of focus,” declared Jordan goalkeeper Amer Shafie, one of the best in the region.

Tajikistan should not be underestimated, especially at home. The Central Asians are nothing if not familiar with each other as most of the squad belong to Istiqlol, dominant at home and one of the leading clubs in the region. 

A little more pragmatic and physical than group rival Kyrgyzstan, Jordan may need all of Hamza Al Dardour's talents to break down the home defence. 

There's firepower too as a 4-1 home win over Malaysia last August proved, providing much soul-searching in Kuala Lumpur. Jordan was tactically superior, showing the hard work and organisation that the team prides itself on. A 2-0 away win over the Maldives was another excellent result.

Bangladesh host Kyrgyzstan in what should be a fascinating clash. The South Asians didn't play this year until recently, losing at home 2-1 to Singapore and then were held to a 1-1 draw by Afghanistan. 

The Bengal Tigers can play some attractive football but tend to be let down by mistakes and lapses in concentration at the back. Coach Lodewijk de Kruif has attempted to introduce some solidity by playing five in midfield in his second spell in charge but is sweating on the fitness of star winger Zahid Hossain.

If the Sheikh Russel star does not recover from a stomach ulcer that ruled him out of recent games, then it could be 4-3-3. Better for fans is the return of veteran striker Enamul Haque after a gap of five years.

Kyrgyzstan is Australia's first opponent but needs points on the board before then. It does have certain advantages. For Istiqlol in Tajikistan, read Dordoi in Bishkek as the local champion provides the spine of the national team, players that spend plenty of time with wily tactician Zavisa Milosavjevic. 

Expect a counter-attacking game against the Socceroos but it remains to be seen what happens against the others in the group. With no games so far this year, it is going to be difficult for anyone to get a handle on developments and the most recent game with China was backs to the wall stuff for the most part.

In short, it's the first game and while we all know Australia is the overwhelming favourite, all want to get off to a good start.