WATCH every game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup LIVE, FREE and EXCLUSIVE on SBS.
For all the latest action and updates from the diverse range of SBS Sports, follow us on and .
One down, three to go
Australia tallied three straight victories to open the third round of qualification and with three games remaining, that’s exactly what they must do to close it.
Anything less could cost them a fifth consecutive trip to the World Cup, notwithstanding the inter-confederation playoffs that await the AFC’s third-placed representative.
With the Socceroos fashioning a 4-0 victory over Vietnam, they remain one point adrift of automatic qualification, with matches against Oman, Japan, and group leaders Saudi Arabia still to come.
The confidence gained from defeating Vietnam should aid their cause, with each impending fixture offering a higher degree of difficulty than what came before.
For now, it’s in Australia’s hands – though only just – and the path is clear: win, win, win, and they’re in.
Hold the line
Graham Arnold may have been absent from the sidelines during the Socceroos’ 4-0 victory over Vietnam, but he was still making his presence felt.
Arnold, who was forced to remain in isolation after failing to clear COVID-19 protocols, was in constant communication with assistant Rene Meulensteen and used a digital line to deliver countless key messages, including his half-time team talk and substitutions.
The 58-year-old has undergone daily testing to make sure he is available for next week’s meeting with Oman and is expected to join his squad on the plane after reportedly testing negative on Friday morning.
His return will put an end to the countless Zoom sessions and live streams, and comes at a crucial time for the Socceroos, who sit in third place after Japan and Saudi Arabia won their Group B fixtures overnight.
“We’re working hard behind the scenes to make sure that Arnie will be able to travel,” Meulensteen said after the match.
“Although Arnie wasn’t able enough to join us physically in terms of team meetings and training and the game tonight, he’s still been a massive part in the preparation… if we have to deal with a similar scenario in Oman, (we’ll make sure) that we’re able to deal with that as well.”
“It was an outstanding performance for him all around and that’s what you want from players of that calibre.”
Rene Meulensteen echoed the sentiments of every Socceroos fan on Thursday night after Australia defeated Vietnam 4-0 at AAMI Park.
The 27,740 supporters in attendance were treated to a masterclass from Tom Rogic, who produced both a goal and an assist to go with a performance filled with precision on the ball and hard running off it.
Rogic was named ‘man of the match’ for his efforts and once again reminded the nation just how good the Socceroos can be with the 29-year-old in the fold.
The Celtic midfielder was sorely missed during November’s set of fixtures – two draws against Saudi Arabia and China – and will need to be at his very best if Australia are to achieve automatic qualification.
Vietnam were treated to that in Melbourne and one can only hope Oman will be too.
With Australia 2-0 up and Vietnam turning the tide of the match, Rene Meulensteen – under instruction from Graham Arnold – looked to his bench for inspiration.
Three substitutions later, the Socceroos had two more goals for their efforts despite only 10 minutes ticking by.
Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree were the men tasked with continuing Australia’s charge and made an instant impact after coming on for Mathew Leckie and Tom Rogic.
Barely six minutes separated Goodwin’s introduction from his first international goal, having beaten Bui Tan Truong following a fine long ball from Mathew Ryan.
It was an emotional moment for the Adelaide United star but that wouldn’t be his only contribution, as he soon found McGree for the game’s final goal.
McGree’s driven strike was the cherry on top for the Socceroos and an encouraging sign of the squad’s depth ahead of next week’s matchup with Oman.
Australia got their stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign back on track on Thursday night, but the match wasn’t as straightforward as the scoreline would suggest.
For all their possession, goals and attempts on target, one couldn’t help but notice the space left in behind when Australia committed men forward.
Vietnam certainly did and had some success launching quick counter-attacks, particularly through Nguyen Quang Hai and Pham Tuan Hai in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
That spell yielded no end product for the Golden Star Warriors – much to Mathew Ryan’s relief – but better opposition may prove otherwise as the third round of qualification comes to a close.
Be it Joel King, Aziz Behich, Fran Karacic or Rhyan Grant; the space these full-backs leave behind has become an increasingly common avenue for teams to exploit in transition – just ask Japan, who did as much during their victory in Saitama.
Finding the balance between bombing forward and being overexposed will be a key focus for the Socceroos’ final three fixtures and one Arnold must get right if his side are to earn their ticket to Qatar.