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 By Rob Brooks

World Cup qualification is the most important task for Australian football

The past 12 months have been a topsy-turvy affair for Australian football, but with crucial international matches on the horizon and the stakes continually rising in club land, there's plenty to wish for as we begin 2017.

Here are five wishes to help Australian football grow toward its potential:

1. World Cup qualification

The prize every nation is vying for in 2017 is a ticket to Russia 2018, and the Socceroos are no different. A fourth consecutive World Cup appearance is in the offing if Ange Postecoglou...

 By Jason Dasey

Ex-Benfica junior Patafta now Lanexang United GM, targets A-League

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey catches up with former Australian footballer and current Lanexang United general manager Kaz Patafta.

In a crisp white shirt, with black suit and tie, the baby-faced general manager had a familiar look about him as he mingled with other Asian football bosses at last week's AFC draws at the Petaling Jaya Hilton.

At the age of just 28, Kaz Patafta might well have expected to be wearing yellow as part of Australia's ongoing 2018 AFC World Cup qualifying campaign. His former national junior teammates Robbie Kruse, Matt Spiranovic and Nathan Burns, also born in 1988, are key members of the current squad.

Instead,...

ESPN FC  By Dale Johnson

Argentina, Netherlands, Japan and Ghana in danger of missing World Cup

With 12 months to go before we know the 31 teams who will join hosts Russia at the 2018 World Cup, we take a look at some of the major nations and familiar names who appear to have a battle on their hands to make the finals.

Argentina and Chile

Argentina's 3-0 defeat in Brazil last week left them facing a huge crisis in their qualification bid. However, victory at home to Colombia on Tuesday averted this for now, as at least that win left them fifth and that offers a playoff against the winners of...

 By Rob Brooks

Australia's road to Russia a whole lot more difficult after Thailand draw

Jason Dasey and Matt Smith break down Thailand's resilient effort in their 2-2 draw against Australia in WCQ.

Australia's recent struggles to overcome lowly Thailand could cost them a place at the 2018 World Cup.

A poor performance in Bangkok on Tuesday evening resulted in a 2-2 draw with the world No. 146, leaving the Socceroos in third place in Group B at the midway point of the third qualification stage.

Only the top two sides from both AFC groups qualify automatically. Third placed teams must take part in a difficult two-legged playoff against each other, with the winner to face a CONCACAF opponent in...

 By Jason Dasey

Jedinak stands tall for Socceroos but Maclaren flops vs. Thailand

Australia had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw against Thailand in Bangkok on Tuesday night.

Asian champions Australia dropped two points on the road to Russia 2018 when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Thailand in a 2018 AFC World Cup qualifying match in Bangkok on Tuesday night.

The Socceroos took an early lead in the Group B clash when captain Mile Jedinak converted a ninth-minute penalty. But they were stunned when the Southeast Asian underdogs went ahead through a brace from Teerasil Dangda either side of half-time.

However, the visitors secured a draw when Jedinak converted a second...

 By Paul Murphy

Thailand need fast start vs. physical Socceroos in Bangkok WCQ

Struggling Thailand will have to find a way to match Asian champions Australia in Bangkok on Tuesday if they are to finally get points on the board in their AFC World Cup qualifying group.

The War Elephants have lost the first four matches of their Group B campaign. It is clear that a vast improvement on the shambolic 4-0 capitulation against Iraq in their most recent game is required if Kiatisuk Senamuang's men are going to take anything from the Socceroos.

But, as Thailand continues to mourn the...