Australia face tough task against Iraq in World Cup qualifier

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 5:07am


Australia face a tough away assignment against Zico's Iraq tonight knowing defeat would rock their chances of reaching a third successive World Cup.

Last month's shock loss to Jordan left the Socceroos with just two points from three games in the final round of Asian qualifying, and badly in need of a win to get their campaign on track.

Third-placed Australia are already eight points off the pace set by group B leaders Japan and facing a scrap with Jordan, Iraq and possibly even Oman for the second automatic qualifying spot.

"We just have to make sure we right the wrong from the last game and get a much-needed victory. We can't afford to slip up again," warned striker Alex Brosque.

When the teams last met, Harry Kewell's header with two minutes left of extra-time knocked the reigning champions out of the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha - also the venue for tonight's game, as security concerns continue in Iraq.

Coach Holger Osieck successfully utilised a number of veterans during that tournament including Kewell, goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, defender Lucas Neill and midfielders Brett Emerton and Tim Cahill.

However, the German's loyalty towards those stalwarts appears to be running its course after his team's poor start to the final round of Asian qualifying for the World Cup.

With Japan not in action this week, Jordan have a chance to make up some ground on the leaders when they visit Muscat to face Oman, who are equal on points with Iraq and Australia but last in the group on goal difference.

In group A, leaders South Korea face their stiffest test so far when they take on Iran at Tehran's Azadi Stadium looking to stay unbeaten and preserve their three-point cushion after two wins and a draw so far.

While Choi Kang-hee's side have been in fine form as they seek an eighth consecutive World Cup berth, the same cannot be said of Carlos Queiroz's Iran, who are second but struggling for goals.

They earned a fortunate 1-0 win in their opener in Uzbekistan, thanks to Mohammad Reza Khalatbari's stoppage-time strike, but then drew blanks in a 0-0 draw at home against Qatar and a 1-0 defeat in Lebanon.