Seeking to move into the automatic qualification places in Group B of the World Cup qualifiers, Australia square off against Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Tuesday.
The Reds, who are currently fourth in the group standings, will head into the game desperate to get one over the visitors having failed to win any of the last five meetings between the sides since 2011.
Oman suffered a huge blow in their hunt for a place in Qatar later this year when they fell to a slender 1-0 defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia last Thursday.
In a cagey affair at the King Abdullah Sports City, Branko Ivankovic’s men were made to rue their wasteful display in front of goal as Firas Albirakan scored three minutes into the second half to hand the hosts all three points.
This followed a decent run in the Arab Cup, where they picked up four points from three games to finish second in Group A before suffering a 2-1 defeat at the hands of North African side Tunisia back in December.
Oman have now failed to win all but one of their last seven games across all competitions — losing four and picking up two draws — with a 3-0 victory over Bahrain on December 6 being the only exception.
This has been owing to their struggles at the defensive end of the pitch, where they have failed to keep a clean sheet in six of those games while conceding eight goals, with their luck at the opposite end of their pitch not any better.
Having picked up seven points from seven games, the Reds are currently fourth in Group B, seven points off Australia in the qualification playoff spot and two points above fifth-placed China.
With just three qualifying games left to play, Oman must avoid dropping more points to keep their slender qualification hopes alive and end their wait to make a first-ever World Cup appearance.
However, next up is the stern test of taking on an opposing side who are unbeaten in eight of the last nine meetings between the teams since 2009, claiming six wins and two draws in that time.
Australia, on the other hand, continued their charge for an automatic qualification ticket when they cruised to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Vietnam last time out.
In a one-sided affair at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Jamie MacLaren, Tom Rogic, Craig Goodwin and Riley McGree were all on target to hand the hosts all three points and hand the Golden Star Warriors their seventh defeat in seven group outings.
Prior to that, Graham Arnold’s men were on a three-name winless run, losing 2-1 at the hands of Australia on October 13 before playing out successive draws with Saudi Arabia and China respectively in November.
Australia head into Tuesday’s game unbeaten in all but one of their last 15 games across all competitions, picking up an impressive 12 wins and two draws in that time.
The Socceroos are currently five points off Group B leaders Saudi Arabia and one behind second-placed Japan, and with three games left, they will feel confident in their chances of maintaining this fine form and clinching an automatic slot in Qatar.
Australia boast five appearances at the World Cup, with their most recent being in Russia four years ago, when they crashed out in the group stages after picking up just one point from three games to finish rock bottom in Group C.
Oman World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
Oman form (all competitions):
Australia World Cup Qualifying – Asia form:
We say: Oman 0-3 Australia
Buoyed by their win over Vietnam last time out, Australia will head into the game with renewed confidence and will look to keep the juggernaut rolling and move into the automatic qualification places. The Socceroos have won each of the last three meetings between the sides, while they are unbeaten in the last five, and we are tipping them to extend their dominance and come away with all three points.