The Australian national team may be forced to play in a one-way match for the World Cup as the format of the qualifying round for the four-year tournament has changed.
From NZ HeraldReport FIFA supports a new format that transforms the qualifying stage between federations from a two-legged format to two one-off matches played on neutral ground.
Australia are currently third in the World Cup qualifiers, 11 points behind Saudi Arabia (16) and Japan (12) with four games remaining.
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In third place, third-placed Australia will face the other team – the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon or Iraq – in a one-game play-off (already cut from a two-game draw due to Kovit). The winner advances to the Continental qualifying round.
The qualifying round is currently between teams from Asia, North and Central America (CONCACAF), South America (CONMEBOL) and Oceania, with two match winners advancing to the final two of the World Cup.
According to the new format announced, instead of playing at home and abroad, relations between the federations will see a match for a draw, mostly in Qatar, where the 2022 World Cup will take place.
Some of Australia’s most famous football moments, good and bad, happened through these qualifying rounds.
In 2006, the Australian team lost to Uruguay 0-1, but won 1-0 on home soil and then went on to win the match on penalties. Most recently for 2018, the Australian national team qualified by defeating Honduras 0-0 and 3-1 at home.
Australia suffered a 3-1 defeat to Uruguay at the 2002 World Cup, 3-3 (away goals) to Iran in 1998, and a 2-1 and 2-0 overall defeat to Argentina in 1994. Total 1986 to Scotland.
The World Cup qualifiers will take place in March at the Oceanic Stadium in Qatar, with New Zealand looking to move on for the fourth time in a row. The CONMEBOL team will most likely be from Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay or Bolivia, while CONCACAF will be from Canada, the United States, Mexico or Panama.
A draw will be made later this month to see which federations will play against each other. Qualifying rounds will take place in June 2022, ahead of the World Cup in November and December.
So far 13 countries have qualified for the World Cup, including host nation Qatar: UEFA Group Champions Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands, as well as Brazil and Argentina.
The 2022 World Cup will be the last with 32 teams, after FIFA agreed to expand the event to 2026 with 48 teams.
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