Australia are used to travelling the “hard way” to World Cups and are ready to take on the United Arab Emirates in their Asian playoff in Doha, coach Graham Arnold said.
Australia are no strangers to World Cup playoffs, having defeated Honduras to book a berth in Russia four years ago after first seeing off Syria under former boss Ange Postecoglou.
Arnold’s outfit will need to travel a similar path to qualify for the Qatar finals, with the winner of the UAE clash progressing to another playoff against Peru six days later.
“Australia's pretty much used to doing it the hard way,” Arnold told reporters in Doha. “And it's our fifth time we’ve had to go through playoffs. So it's an experience we're used to.” The Socceroos have qualified for every World Cup since 2006 after making their debut in 1974.
The UAE have qualified only once, in 1990, but should have most of the support at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium after their soccer federation bought 5,000 tickets for fans making the short trip from the Emirates.
Arnold was unfazed by the prospect of a hostile crowd and said his team was at home in the Middle East, having played 14 out of 18 World Cup qualifiers in the region.
“Of course it's going to be more fans from the UAE, but I think that will help us as well,” he said. “I think the neutral fans will also be supporting us.”
Arnold added that playmaker Aaron Mooy was “in great shape” to play a big role in the playoff, having recovered well from the 2-1 friendly win over Jordan last week, his first competitive football in nearly six months.
If UAE get past the Aussies then they will face Peru and will be just be 90 mins away from making the finals in November. UAE will be looking to star man Ali Mabkhout, their all-time leading scorer, to fire them to glory. He has scored 80 goals in 104 games and if he is able to get himself on the scoresheet tonight it could be one of his most important international goals.
Defensively, the UAE look pretty solid having just conceded 7 goals in their last 10 qualifiers and the fact the Socceroos will be without star man Tom Rogic will boost their confidence.
The UAE also beat Australia the last time they played them in the 2019 Asian Cup quarter-finals and they will be hopeful of repeating that result.