With the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ on the horizon, two key opponents stand between the Socceroos and direction qualification for the World Cup.
Japan and Saudi Arabia are the two nations set to take on the Socceroos in the final window of group matches with both teams ahead of Australia in the standings.
The equation is simple: win both matches and qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
It’s not an unfamiliar situation for the Socceroos and that experience is something that Mathew Leckie believes the squad can use to their advantage.
Speaking with Daniel Garb and former teammate, Robbie Cornthwaite on the Official A-Leagues Podcast, Leckie revealed that the squad is feeling good.
“Most of the boys are confident that if we win against Japan we will go on to qualify directly for the World Cup,” said Leckie.
“We want to go to the World Cup and to do so we need to beat the two teams who are on the top of the group right now. The good news is we have that opportunity.”
The situation is very familiar to Leckie and other members of the squad as the scenario was exactly the same four years ago when qualifying for Russia 2018.
With two rounds left in qualification, the Socceroos needed a victory against both Japan and Thailand to guarantee qualification.
While the team eventually fell short: losing to Japan and needing a win in the play-offs to secure a ticket to Russia, it’s the experience of being in the same position and learning from that experience that could play to the Socceroos’ benefit this time around.
Considering the tight nature of contests between Australia and Japan – with 10 of the past 11 matches either being a draw or decided by a single goal – any small advantage or extra experience could be the difference between the two teams
“It’s not going to be easy of course, we know that Japan’s been super strong for so long now and it’s always been close contests against them but it’s in our hands and that’s the good thing,” said Leckie.
The Socceroos take on Japan in their final home match of FIFA World Cup Qualification on Thursday 24 March at Stadium Australia. Kick-off is 8:10pm (AEDT) and tickets can be purchased here.