Australia will endeavour to march to a simple three points in World Cup 2022 Qualifying when they welcome Vietnam to Melbourne for Thursday’s AFC third-round tie.
Graham Arnold’s side currently occupy third spot in the section – which would lead to a place in the fourth round – while the visitors enter the contest without a single point to their name.
After navigating the first two rounds of World Cup 2022 Qualifying with ease, Australia have since come unstuck in round three and are facing quite the battle to confirm automatic qualification for the Qatar tournament.
Graham Arnold’s side opened Group B with three successive victories, but pitting their wits against the big boys has led to a downturn in fortunes, with Saudi Arabia, Japan and China all taking points off Australia in their last three matches.
The Socceroos were on course to record a slender win over China courtesy of Mitchell Duke’s effort before Wu Lei levelled the scores from the penalty spot, and Arnold’s side now find themselves in third place – one point behind second-placed Japan and five adrift of leaders Saudi Arabia.
Australia ought to feel confident about their chances of progressing via the intercontinental play-offs should it come to that, but a top-two finish is still firmly within their reach ahead of a crunch battle with Japan in March.
A goalless draw at home to Saudi Arabia back in November ended a 10-game winning streak at home in World Cup Qualifying for Australia, but not since 2008 have the Socceroos suffered defeat on familiar territory at this stage, which does not bode well for their winless opponents.
In stark contrast, Vietnam’s World Cup 2022 Qualifying third-round period could not have been a more torrid affair for the world’s 98th-ranked nation, who are without a single point let alone a win from their opening six games in Group B.
Vietnam are still in with the slimmest of chances of finishing third and keeping their Qatar hopes alive via the playoff route, but even the most ardent Golden Star Warriors supporter would accept that such an eventuality is nothing more than a mere fantasy at this point.
This week’s visitors have scored a group-low four goals and conceded a group-high 12 in the third round so far – letting in an average of two per game – and their title of ASEAN Football Federation champions also came to an end in December’s tournament, with Thailand eliminating them in the semi-finals.
Park Hang-seo’s side also head into the clash with Australia having conceded three goals in each of their last four World Cup Qualifying games away from home, but the Socceroos could only record a 1-0 win in the first meeting between the two sides thanks to Rhyan Grant’s effort.
Australia World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
Vietnam World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
Vietnam form (all competitions):
We say: Australia 3-0 Vietnam
Australia may have ridden their luck somewhat in their initial meeting with Vietnam, but we do not expect any similar sort of difficulty for the Socceroos this week.
Vietnam’s hopes of a third-placed finish are all but dead in the water, and confidence will not be sky-high having ceded their AFF Championship crown, so Arnold’s men will expect to march to a routine win here.