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Socceroos WC qualifying state of play

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016

The Socceroos' World Cup qualification path has become far more precarious after Tuesday night's embarrassing 2-2 draw with minnows Thailand.

Had Australia got the job done in Bangkok they would have reclaimed the summit of Group B at the halfway point of the final phase.

Instead, they languish in third and will spend next year playing catch-up.

ROAD TO RUSSIA 2018 GETS EVEN TRICKIER

With Group B as it lies, a top-two finish and automatic qualification is far from straightforward for the third-placed Socceroos. One point separates the top four in a bottleneck that will make every one of next year's five fixtures even more important. Japan's 2-1 win over leaders Saudi Arabia lifted them to second on equal 10 points. Just as crucially, fourth-placed UAE have drawn level with Australia on equal nine points courtesy of their 2-0 win over Iraq.

EVEN THIRD PLACE NO GUARANTEE

Finish third and Australia still have a chance to qualify via a play-off against the third-placed team from Group A. That would be followed by a difficult tie against the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation, which includes the likes of Mexico and the United States. But even that isn't simple anymore. The UAE are pushing hard and the March showdown in Sydney will be a must win for the Socceroos if they have any hope.

IN AUSTRALIA'S FAVOUR

Next year's draw. The Socceroos have already done the hard yards away, meaning they'll now benefit from home matches with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. While that does not guarantee points, it's a markedly easier run that this year's gruelling travel schedule. First though, they must play Iraq in neutral territory. And of course, an away blockbuster in Japan that could be the clincher.

GROUP B STANDINGS

Saudi Arabia -- P 5, W 3, D 1, L 1, GD 4, Pts 10

Japan -- P 5, W 3, D 1, L 1, GD 3, Pts 10

Australia -- P 5, W 2, D 3, L 0, GD 3, Pts 9

UAE -- P 5, W 3, D 0, L 2, GD 1, Pts 9

Iraq -- P 5, W 1, D 0, L 4, GD -2, Pts 3

Thailand -- P 5, W 0, D 1, L 4, GD -9, Pts 1

AUSTRALIA'S REMAINING FIXTURES

Iraq (A) March 23, 2017

United Arab Emirates (H) March 28, 2017

Saudi Arabia (H) June 8, 2017

Japan (A) August 31, 2017

Thailand (H) September 5, 2017

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