Australia’s hopes of reaching the 2014 FIFA World Cup could be severely dented when they face Jordan in AFC qualifying Group B on Tuesday.
With Japan having already sealed one of two automatic qualification spots, Holger Osieck’s men must overhaul second-placed Oman to avoid the lottery of a play-off fixture.
Tuesday’s meeting with Jordan in Melbourne represents the first chance to do that, though the visitors will have similar ambitions of making a late dash for automatic qualification.
They have also collected seven points from their six qualifying games, and secured a 2-1 victory in the last meeting between these sides in September 2012.
Jordan’s head coach Adnan Hamad’s desire to win is also likely to be stronger than usual, after he was detained for over four hours by Australian officials upon landing at Melbourne airport.
But Aussie defender Lucas Neill has urged the home fans to roar his side on to a crucial win, saying: “(At a World Cup) you get the noise, the colour and everybody willing the team on it makes a big difference and we have players who thrive on that.
“We need the Australian supporters behind us. We all want to go to Brazil and the supporters need to play their part.”
By contrast, Group B’s other fixture has little riding on it, as already-qualified Japan complete their campaign by taking on bottom-of-the-table Iraq away from home.
AFC Group A is arguably even tighter, with Korea Republic, Uzbekistan and Iran all pushing for automatic qualification for the World Cup in Brazil.
Group leaders Korea meet second-placed Uzbekistan in Seoul on Tuesday with both teams having accumulated 11 points from their six matches.
And just one point behind them sit Iran, who will be looking to leapfrog the losers of that fixture – or, in the case of a draw, both teams – when they host last-placed Lebanon.
However, Carlos Quieroz’s men suffered defeat the last time the two teams met, and thus are by no means guaranteed a crucial win.