Aziz Behich has vowed the Caltex Socceroos are ready to ‘make a statement in Asia’ during their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign.
The group stage of the second round of Asian Football Confederation qualifiers was drawn on Wednesday night and pitted Australia up against Jordan, Kuwait, Chinese Taipei and Nepal in Group B.
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One team from each of the eight groups will advance to the third and final round of AFC qualifying, and the group winners will be joined by the four best runners up.
That means topping the five-team group is the only way to guarantee progression and 28-year-old left-back Behich, who now plies his trade in Turkey for Istanbul Başakşehir, is eager to get started on the road to Qatar.
“It’s going to be a tough one but we’re going to set our standards high and we want to make a statement in Asia,” Behich told Socceroos.com.au.
“We wanted to win the Asian Cup, we’ve put that behind us and we’ve played against Korea Republic.
“We had a great performance there with a lot of new faces. It’s going to be a long campaign to qualify for the World Cup.
“Every group is going to be a tough group, looking at the teams we’ve got, I can’t wait to get it started.”
While Chinese Taipei and Nepal are less well known to Australian fans, the Caltex Socceroos have more recently gone head-to-head with Jordan and Kuwait, the latter of which Graham Arnold's side faced in the head coach's first match in charge.
The Arnold era started in dream fashion when Kuwait defender Khalid El Ebrahim put through his own net, Apostolos Giannou added a second and late goals from Tom Rogic and Awer Mabil made it 4-0 in October 2018.
“There’s Kuwait and Jordan who we’ve played against in the past, Kuwait the most recent one a year ago,” added Behich.
“It was our first game with the new manager in Arnie and we had a great game, great result and we set our standards from that game.
“The other two teams are not going to be easy games either.
“They are a little bit more unknown but I’m sure our scooting staff and coaching staff are already on top of it and analysing their past games.
“We’ll go into every game with the same mentality and I’m exciting to kick it off already.”
Check out the Caltex Socceroos’ calendar below (*likely dates)
September 2019 - FIFA Window: 2-10 September
- Thursday 5th September - bye
- Tuesday 10th September – Kuwait v Caltex Socceroos
October 2019 - FIFA window 7-15 October
- Thursday 10th October – Caltex Socceroos v Nepal
- Tuesday 15th October – Chinese Taipei v Caltex Socceroos
November 2019 - FIFA Window: 11-19 November
- Thursday 14th November – Jordan v Caltex Socceroos
- Tuesday 19th November – bye
March 2020 - FIFA Window: 23-31 March
- Thursday 26th March – Caltex Socceroos v Kuwait
- Tuesday 31st March – Nepal v Caltex Socceroos
June 2020 - FIFA Window: 1 June-12 July
- Thursday 4th June – Caltex Socceroos v Chinese Taipei
- Tuesday 9th June – Caltex Socceroos v Jordan
All kick-off times and venues are to yet to be confirmed. Match schedule is based off current FIFA calendar and AFC competition scheduling.