The Australia men’s national football team had an underwhelming homecoming in Sydney on Thursday, as they were frustrated by Saudi Arabia in a drab 0-0 draw.
Around 25,000 Socceroos fans cheered on the team, who were playing their first game in Australia in over two years. Games had until now been played overseas, mostly in the UAE, due to the travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The home fans were left disappointed as negative tactics from the away team allowed them to see out the goalless draw, which would’ve left the 3,000 Saudi fans relatively pleased.
The draw means that Saudi Arabia stay top of Group B on 13 points, while Australia sit in second place on 10 points. Japan are hot on their heels in third place with 9 points from five games.
Despite missing out on their chance to go top of Group B in Thursday’s draw in Sydney, the Socceroos are still in a fantastic position to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Ten points from five games is still a good haul, and a win against China on Tuesday puts Graham Arnold’s boys in a solid position. However, they will be looking over their shoulder at Japan, who are just behind them on nine points.
The Socceroos should be confident of once again beating a China side that they eased past in the opening game of the third round qualifiers back in September. Goals from Awar Mabil, Martin Boyle and Mitchell Duke saw Australia run out comfortable winners against a Chinese side that posed little threat.
China is second from the bottom in the third round of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers, having taken just four points from five games.
The biggest test for the Socceroos will be the final round of games in March, when they face a double header against Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The one worry that coach Graham Arnold has ahead of Thursday’s game against China in the United Arab Emirates is the fitness of center back Harry Souttar.
The 23 year old Scottish-born Australia international was stretchered off clutching his knee during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in Syndey.
The extent of the injury is not yet known, however, Souttar is reportedly set to have his knee scanned over the weekend. Arnold has publicly said that the Stoke City center back is a serious doubt for Tuesday’s game.
As Socceroos fans have become accustomed to, Tuesday morning’s clash will be another awkward one to watch. The game is taking place at the Sharjah Stadium in UAE and kicks off at 2am AEDT. For viewers in WA, this puts the game at a slightly more sociable time of 11pm.
Match: China vs Australia
Kick-off time: 2am (AEDT)
Venue: Sharjah Stadium
TV: 10/10Bold (WA), 10 Play , Paramount+
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