The Socceroos are a perfect 11 from 11 so far on the long (and, dare I say, seemingly never-ending) road to the World Cup. They can make it a dozen tonight at Saitama Stadium, and if they do manage to extend their record World Cup qualification winning streak, they can take a big step towards reaching next year’s tournament in Qatar.
Arguably, there has never been a better time to face their old foes Japan. A solitary point from their three outings so far in this stage of qualification – and just a single goal scored, against China – has ramped up the pressure on coach Hajime Moriyasu who, as John Duerden points out in his match preview below, may well not be in gainful employment come Japan’s next match against Vietnam should his side fall to another defeat tonight.
The contrast with Graham Arnold could not be more stark, with the Socceroos coach having overseen a run that has taken his side clear of the benchmark set by Germany (2018), Spain (2010) and Mexico (2006) in terms of consecutive victories, and put them in a commanding position at the top of Group B in this third round of Asian qualification. Another three points in Japan tonight, in what would have been marked out as their most difficult assignment before this phase got underway, would provide a huge fillip.