The Socceroos have been pitted against Asian powerhouse Japan for the fourth straight World Cup qualifying campaign.
- The Socceroos are in Group B with Japan, Vietnam, Oman, China and Saudi Arabia
- The top-two teams from each group will automatically qualify for Qatar 2022
- The Socceroos won all eight of their matches in the second phase of qualifying
Graham Arnold’s squad were drawn in Group B for the third phase of qualifying along with the Samurai Blue, Vietnam, Oman, China and Saudi Arabia.
It comes after Japan and Australia faced each other in the same stage of qualifying on the road to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for Qatar 2022 with the third-placed teams to advance to a playoff.
The winner of that match then takes on a nation from a different confederation for a two-legged playoff with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.
After claiming a perfect eight wins from eight matches in the second phase of qualifying, Socceroos coach 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 the Socceroos are still yet to play since the two nations’ infamous World Cup playoff 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 the World Cup finals when a Tim Cahill double inspired a 3-1 win in Germany in 2006.
The Socceroos have won seven of 25 matches against Japan but last tasted victory over their rivals in 2010.
Japan has won four of the past seven encounters between the two sides.
Matches in the third stage of qualifying are scheduled to be played in September, October, November, January, February and March but actual dates and venues are yet to be confirmed.
Depending on travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, matches may be played in a tournament-style hub at a centralised venue such as they were for the final matches of the second phase of qualifying last month.