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 By Paul Murphy

Thailand won't roll over for Socceroos after defensive improvements

Japan qualified for their sixth straight World Cup following their 2-0 win over Australia.
Jason Dasey and David Mitchell recap Australia's defeat to Japan and evaluate the Socceroos' prospects for qualifying.
Australia's Jackson Irvine credits Japan's game plan and still feels Australia can qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

BANGKOK -- Australia would be well advised not to take a more defensive Thailand lightly as they attempt to seal automatic qualification from Group B in Tuesday's final matchday of the World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign.

The Socceroos' 2-0 defeat to Japan on Thursday has left them in a precarious position, with a crushing win over the Thais their best chance of booking their place in Russia next year.

AustraliaAustralia
ThailandThailand
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They will need to overturn a two-goal deficit compared to Saudi Arabia to avoid being subjected...

 By Paul Murphy

Australia lack penetration, let down in defence in World Cup loss to Japan

Jason Dasey and David Mitchell recap Australia's defeat to Japan and evaluate the Socceroos' prospects for qualifying.
Australia's Jackson Irvine credits Japan's game plan and still feels Australia can qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Japan qualified for their sixth straight World Cup following their 2-0 win over Australia.

Yosuke Ideguchi's stunning late strike sealed Japan's qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as the Samurai Blue won 2-0 over Australia in Saitama on Thursday night.

The Socceroos now have to wait until they face Thailand on Tuesday for a second chance to book their place. The Aussies must make up a two-goal deficit while outdoing Saudi Arabia's result over Japan on the same day to seal automatic qualification, and avoid the playoffs.

Goals in each half from Takuma Asano and Ideguchi gave...

 By John Duerden

Tim Cahill to draw on World Cup 2006 heroics to inspire Australia vs. Japan

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson look ahead to Japan's clash against Australia in AFC World Cup qualifying.

One day in the far future, a crunch game between Japan and Australia will be discussed without mentioning Tim Cahill. Long after the Socceroos' legend stops punching corner flags for good, it will be easier for Japan to forget what he did in the nation's first World Cup meeting 11 years ago.

Ahead of Thursday's crunch 2018 World Cup qualifier in Saitama, Cahill's familiar figure looms large.

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AustraliaAustralia
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Closer to 40 than 35, he may not be the force of nature that he once was. But his usual spot on the substitutes...

 By Rob Brooks

Japan hosts Australia in what could be Asia's definitive World Cup qualifier

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson look ahead to Japan's clash against Australia in AFC World Cup qualifying.

"To make it to such a prestigious tournament, you have to beat the best."

Tim Cahill's words on Fox Sports echoed out in anticipation following the draw for the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

As Asia's top nations were separated into two groups in April last year, it became clear that Group B would be largely defined by the clashes between the two most recent champions of the continent -- Japan and Australia. In particular, the match in Saitama on the penultimate matchday always loomed...

 By Jason Dasey

Okazaki, Mooy light up Premier League, target World Cup qualification

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson look ahead to Japan's clash against Australia in AFC World Cup qualifying.
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner hopes to keep Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy in the newly-promoted side for next season.

They're two of the in-form players of the Premier League, and will come face-to-face on the international stage when Japan hosts Australia in a crucial World Cup qualifier next week.

But both Shinji Okazaki and Aaron Mooy, with three goals between them in the first two weeks of the English season, may still need to convince their respective national coaches after some underwhelming performances on the road to Russia 2018.

Okazaki has sat on the bench for all but one of Japan's last five qualifying...

 By John Duerden

Takefusa Kubo makes Tokyo FC debut, hailed as the Japanese Messi

Takefusa Kubo makes debut for FC Tokyo
Takefusa Kubo, right, made his FC Tokyo senior debut in a Japanese cup game on Wednesday.

Thailand, Iran and South Korea are Asian nations who have their own versions of Lionel Messi, however misguided the comparison. And now, Japan have joined the club. Hopes are high that Takefusa Kubo will shine brighter than any Japanese player in history.

In terms of media attention, he is already on his way. Still only 15, he made his senior debut in midweek for FC Tokyo in a cup game against Consadole Sapporo. becoming the second youngest rookie in J.League history after Takayuki Morimoto in 2004.

It...