Socceroos resolute as they plan campaign against Syria

MELBOURNE • Australia coach Ange Postecoglou says his team will hit the ground running in their arduous World Cup play-off clash against Syria, brushing aside frustration at failing to qualify automatically for Russia.

The Socceroos beat Thailand 2-1 in their final Asian qualifying Group B game on Tuesday, but with Saudi Arabia upsetting Japan 1-0, it consigned them to a two-leg play-off against Syria.

The winner of that tie will then battle North and Central America's (Concacaf) fourth-placed qualifier in November for a spot at the global showpiece.

"It's obviously a more difficult road," said Postecoglou in Melbourne yesterday.

"We've just got to switch our minds to getting prepared for them... we'll get info on the opposition, get organised logistically and hit the ground running.

"The players have been fantastic throughout the whole qualifying series. I see a real determination to see this through. As long as that's there, we will continue down that path."

Syria earned their place in the play-offs with a 2-2 Group A draw with Iran in Tehran, thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser.

The first leg is on Oct 5, with Syria's home venue yet to be decided, though they have been playing their "home" games in Malaysia. The return will be five days later in Australia.

The Socceroos missed out to the Saudis on goal difference, with their failure to put more goals past the Thais being criticised by two former Australian internationals - Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater.

Slater said it was time for Postecoglou to go, tweeting: "We need a new approach! Socceroos have lost their way".

Many in the Melbourne crowd on Tuesday could not believe the Socceroos managed only two goals, with the team having 45 shots and hitting the post three times.

"If there was a more one-sided contest, I don't think I've ever seen it," said Postecoglou.

"Forty-five shots, 20-odd inside the box, three posts, one cleared off the line. Usually when the evidence is so overwhelming, you get the rewards."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Socceroos resolute as they plan campaign against Syria'. Print Edition | Subscribe