Socceroos captain Mat Ryan is confident Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign is right on track despite recent stumbles on the road to Qatar 2022.
Thursday’s goalless draw against Group B leaders Saudi Arabia as well as last month’s defeat to Japan in Saitama mean Graham Arnold’s team has a tenuous grip on an automatic qualifying berth.
Australia are just one point clear of Japan heading into Tuesday’s (Wednesday 0200 AEDT) clash with China in the UAE.
More dropped points could allow the Samurai Blue to leapfrog the Socceroos into second place but that isn’t a scenario Ryan is giving too much thought.
Instead he fully expects the team to deliver against the struggling Chinese, who have won just one of their five qualifiers and were comfortably dispatched 3-0 by the Socceroos in the opening round of matches in September.
“It’s been obviously working, with the form we’ve been in recently, what we’ve been doing,” Ryan said.
“We’ve been scoring plenty of goals.
“It’s always an issue when you’re not creating opportunities and we definitely had them (on Thursday).
“It’s just that final touch to put the ball in the back of the net and come this next game I’m confident that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing.”
With central defender Harry Souttar injured and Andrew Nabbout withdrawn, defenders Ryan McGowan and Bailey Wright will link up with the squad in Sharjah.
Milos Degenek came on for Souttar when the Scottish-born stopper was stretchered off late in the second-half of the Saudi stalemate and will be the front-runner to start alongside Trent Sainsbury on Tuesday.
Other options Arnold could turn to for the China game are striker Jamie Maclaren, who didn’t feature against the Saudis, while Mitch Duke and Riley McGree are other attacking options pushing for a starting role.
“We’re going to need everyone like always and it’s good to have competition for spots,” Ryan said.
“Come game time Tuesday everyone’s going to be up for it and whoever gets the nod to start is obviously going to do their best.”