Socceroos set for sudden-death World Cup playoffs

Ange Postecoglou says with the Socceroos needing to win two matches to qualify for the World Cup, now is not the time to discuss what’s gone wrong.

Former national coach Ange Postecoglou has urged the Socceroos to forget the past and focus on the task at hand – winning successive sudden-death matches to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

Forced to win two do-or-die games after failing to gain automatic qualification via the Asian Football Confederation’s group stage, the Socceroos must beat the United Arab Emirates in Qatar on Wednesday morning (AEST).

Should they win that match, the Socceroos must then defeat South American nation Peru in the following week’s intercontinental playoff – also being played in Qatar – to reach the November-December World Cup.

With Postecoglou at the helm, the Socceroos also had to qualify for the 2018 World Cup via the playoffs, beating Syria and Honduras, but that time in home and away two-legged affairs.

Postecoglou stood down as Socceroos boss after achieving qualification, with Dutchman Bert van Marwijk coaching Australia at Russia 2018 before current coach Graham Arnold took charge.

Arnold’s men started the qualifying period well before falling away to miss a top-two spot – which would have secured them an automatic World Cup qualifying berth – in the AFC’s third-round group stage.

Fresh from his Scottish title success with Celtic in his first season in charge of the Glasgow giants, Postecoglou told SEN Sportsday he had a “million thoughts” on why Australian football and the Socceroos had stagnated.

However, he said all that mattered right now was Australia beating UAE and Peru to ensure the Socceroos were represented at a fifth successive World Cup.

“Irrespective of what’s happened they’ve got two games to get to a World Cup – you can’t get any more focused than that,” Postecoglou said.

“That’s what the thought process has to be around the Socceroos camp – I’m sure it is.

“Graham Arnold and the players know they’re two games away from another World Cup, and we shouldn’t take them for granted.

“When you miss out that’s when you realise just how big an event it is, and I don’t want us to miss out.”

Postecoglou admitted the absence of star playmaker Tom Rogic, who withdrew from Australia’s squad for undisclosed personal reasons, was a blow to the Socceroos’ qualification hopes.

“Hopefully, over the next period, he gets his immediate future sorted out because he’s still got a lot of good football in him,” said Postecoglou of Rogic, whom he coached at Celtic in the past season.

Rogic has since departed the Hoops, with his next move still unknown.

“I’m not sure what his next step is. I’ve left him alone,” Postecoglou said.

“I’ve had a great relationship with Tom over the last few years … particularly these last 12 months,

“He felt it was time for him to move on, and I thought it was a great way for him to finish as a champion.”

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