Think I might send a congratulations note to my friends in Abu Dhabi. We woke to the news that not only did the UAE slay Saudi Arabia overnight, but that win has opened the door for Australia to qualify automatically for the World Cup on Thursday night.... if our boys can win in the cauldron of Saitama.
That’s the wash up from Group B of World Cup qualification after a thrilling victory for the UAE in Al Ain City against a 10-man Saudis overnight.
As the Caltex Socceroos were sleeping in their Tokyo hotel, their chances of automatic qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup received a real boost.
Of course, it’s not easy task defeating Japan in Saitama, but here’s why Australia now have extra motivation to go for the three points.
As you can see, Ange Postecoglou’s men are level on points and goal difference with the Saudis but – and this is the crucial part - they have played a game less.
Three points against Japan on Thursday night and Australia will go two points clear at the top of Group B and that will be enough as Saudi Arabia hosts Japan in the final game.
There was an assumption, at least in Japan, that UAE, sitting in fourth in the group and with only a theoretical chance of taking third and entering the play-off route, would roll over against Saudi Arabia.
This was heightened by the news that UAE had given away fans 4,000 free tickets, but instead of the away win, the Green Falcons returned to Riyadh pointless after a 2-1 defeat.
Now the Saudis (who were beaten by Australia 3-2 in Adelaide last June) are in real danger of missing out on automatic qualification for the FIFA 2018 World Cup.
It is good news for both Japan and Australia.
WIN AND WE’RE IN!
For Australia it means that a win on Thursday guarantees a fourth successive World Cup appearance.
The nightmare scenario for Postecoglou was losing in Japan and Saudi Arabia winning in Al Ain.
But thanks to Mabkhout and Khalil, two of Asia’s deadliest strikers, Russia 2018 is firmly in the sights of the men in green and gold.