Saudis oil the wheels but Ange is unmoved
Ange Postecoglou insists nothing has changed for the Socceroos despite the latest result in Group B that means they can lock in a spot at next year’s World Cup with victory over Japan tonight.
The United Arab Emirates shocked Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their qualifier yesterday morning to simplify the equation for Australia as they hunt a fourth successive World Cup berth.
A win over the Samurai Blue will seal direct qualification for the Socceroos in Russia and turn next week’s clash against Thailand in Melbourne into a celebratory dead rubber.
But Postecoglou, who woke in the early hours to watch the match from the team’s hotel in Tokyo, said the team’s focus and mindset has not altered.
“While people are making a big deal about last night’s result, I can guarantee the boys won’t bat an eyelid because the motivation for tomorrow is the same as it would be regardless of what happened,” Postecoglou said.
“Our goal is to win here ... and win on Tuesday. Our fate’s been in our hands the whole way and it continues to be.”
Australia remain third in Group B, level on points and goal difference with the secondplaced Saudis, while Japan sit top with a one-point buffer ahead of their trip to Jeddah next week.
Postecoglou has long maintained he has bigger goals in mind for the Socceroos than merely qualifying for the World Cup.
“We’ve done that before — not that we take it for granted. It will obviously be a big occasion should we do it,” he said.
“At the end of the day it’s not about wrapping it up.
“It’s about progression as a team. We want to play well tomorrow night against a difficult opponent away from home, perform well and win the game of football.”
The Socceroos, who have never won in Japan, were due to get first look at Saitama Stadium with a familiarisation session yesterday.
Striker Tomi Juric’s participation tonight is in doubt. He sat out training earlier in the week after taking a knock while playing for FC Luzern on Sunday night.
But Postecoglou said he was confident Juric would be available for selection.
He said the rest of the squad was fit and raring to go.
“... I can guarantee the boys won’t bat an eyelid ... Our goal is to win here ... and win on Tuesday.”