Sport Socceroos to tackle Japan in World Cup qualifiers
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Socceroos to tackle Japan in World Cup qualifiers

Australia's path to the World Cup will once again involve a qualification group that includes Japan. Photo: AP
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For the fourth-straight World Cup qualifying campaign, the Socceroos have been pitted against Asian powerhouse Japan.

Australia on Thursday was drawn in Group B for the third phase of qualifying along with the Samurai Blue, Vietnam, Oman, China and Saudi Arabia.

Japan and Australia faced each other in the same stage of qualifying on the road to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups.

In 25 meetings between the two countries, the Socceroos have won seven matches, drawn nine and lost nine.

Australia’s most recent win over Japan was in 2010.

Japan has won four of the past seven encounters since then.

After claiming a perfect eight wins from eight matches in the second phase of qualifying, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was bullish about his team’s prospects.

“What we learnt in the second phase where we had to play seven out of eight games away from home, and we won all eight games, has given the players a lot of belief and confidence when they play away from home,” Arnold said.

“We’ve shown in that second phase a lot of resilience and, as I said, a lot of belief so wherever we play we expect to win every game.”

Iran, who Australia are still yet to play since the two nations’ infamous World Cup play-off in 1997, have been drawn in Group A along with South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Australia and Japan have a long rivalry that includes the Socceroos’ first win at a World Cup finals when a Tim Cahill-double inspired a 3-1 win in Germany in 2006.

Saudi Arabia looms as the next biggest challenge for Graham Arnold’s Socceroos, with the top two teams in each of the two groups progressing straight to Qatar 2022.

The draw on Thursday means Australia’s wait to face Iran since the two nations’ infamous World Cup qualification playoff in 1997 continues.

Venues and dates for the qualifiers are yet to be determined, with Arnold hopeful of Australia hosting at least some of the matches.

The two third-placed nations will face each other in a single-legged playoff, with the winner advancing to a two-legged playoff against a nation from a different confederation for a spot in the World Cup.

-AAP