Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Oman was the latest setback in what’s been an inconsistent campaign from the Socceroos, stemming back to their costly 2-1 defeat to Japan last October.
Since then, Graham Arnold’s men have drawn three of four qualifying fixtures all while the top two automatic qualification spots – held by Saudi Arabia and Japan – drift further and further away.
Japan reeled leaders Saudi Arabia back into the mix with a 2-0 victory in Saitama last night but now sit three points clear of Australia ahead of their crucial clash in Sydney next month.
Should Australia fail to find all three points then, their hopes of attending a fifth straight World Cup will hinge on whether they can successfully navigate the perilous playoffs.
And yet, not even victory over Japan would guarantee automatic qualification, as the Socceroos would then need to snatch an away win over a Saudi Arabia side currently four points ahead.
It’s all shaping up to be a nail-biting finale to the third round of World Cup qualification, but one can’t help but wonder if the Socceroos will hold their nerve.