UNDER PRESSURE: The Socceroos take part in a training session.
UNDER PRESSURE: The Socceroos take part in a training session. PAUL MILLER

What the Aussies need to do to qualify for 2018 World Cup

THE Socceroos' clash with Saudi Arabia is crucial for their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A Socceroos win by two goals or more at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night will put Australia ahead of Saudi Arabia and into the top two in Group B in Asian qualifying.

Automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup is guaranteed by finishing in either of those two spots, with Japan and Saudi Arabia currently three points ahead of Australia.

Should Australia pick up a comprehensive win in Adelaide and results go the Socceroos' way, Ange Postecoglou's men could end up the week on top of the ladder.

That's because Japan faces a tricky away trip to Tehran to face Iraq - which held Australia to a 1-1 draw in March.

A loss for Japan plus a win by at least three goals for Australia will put the Socceroos ahead of the Samurai Blue.

Even a draw for Japan in Iran will open the door for Australia when it travels to Saitama in August.

Finally, a home win against Thailand on the final day of qualifying could also make or break Australia's hopes of direct qualification.

But the worst-case scenario now looks like a third-place finish, with United Arab Emirates out of the picture.

That's because Australia will then have to face off against the third-placed team in Group A before facing the fourth-placed team from North and Central America (CONCACAF).

Both of those playoffs will be two-legged ties, with one played at home and one on the road in order to make it through to the group stage of the World Cup.

As it stands, Australia could play either South Korea or Uzbekistan in the third-place Asian playoff, with just one point separating the two sides, who both have a substantial gap on the next best side, Syria.

In CONCACAF qualifying, the pattern is only just emerging but the United States' disastrous qualifying campaign means its is emerging as a potential playoff opponent for Asia.

Mexico leads the campaign with 10 points, followed by Costa Rica with seven, Panama with five, the US and Honduras with four each, and Trinidad and Tobago with three.

SOCCEROOS' UPCOMING FIXTURES

WCQ: Australia v Saudi Arabia, Thursday, June 8, 8pm, Adelaide Oval

FRIENDLY: Australia v Brazil, Tuesday, June 13, 8.05pm, MCG

CONFEDS: Australia v Germany, Tuesday, June 20, 1am (Russia)

CONFEDS: Cameroon v Australia, Friday, June 23, 1am (Russia)

CONFEDS: Chile v Australia, Monday, June 26, 1am (Russia)

WCQ: Japan v Australia, Thursday, August 31, Saitama

WCQ: Australia v Thailand, Tuesday, September 5, TBC

(times AEST)

News Corp Australia

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