Ange Postecoglou has warned Australia are stalling compared to the rest of Asia as the Socceroos’ World Cup qualification hopes hang in the balance.
The disappointing 2-2 draw with Oman left Australia likely to finish third in Group B of qualifying — unless they beat both Japan and Saudi Arabia, who are both above them, for one of two automatic qualifying spots.
Missing out on a direct spot to Qatar 2022 with a third-place finish means taking the intercontinental play-off route: a single-game playoff against the third-placed team in the other Asian qualifying group and then, if successful, a one-off clash with the fifth-placed finisher in South American qualifying.
Postecoglou, who led Australia at the 2014 World Cup and to 2015 Asian Cup, glory on home soil, is familiar with the difficulties of taking the play-off route.
On the road to Russia 2018, Postecoglou’s Socceroos successfully navigated through two-legged playoffs against Syria and Honduras to qualify.
“I’m following it, obviously,” Celtic boss Postecoglou told SEN on Thursday morning, off the back of his maiden Old Firm win over Rangers.
“I’ve got a vested interest, it’s my nation,
“We’ve qualified for the last few World Cups and you want them to do it again. It’s not an easy path, we know that.
“From my perspective, the signs have been there for a while that the rest of Asia is improving and we’ve kind of stalled in our development.”
Postecoglou rejected the suggestion missing a World Cup would be a learning opportunity, instead emphasising Australia should always expect to qualify.
“The four years I had in charge were fantastic for me,” he said.
“We won an Asian Cup, we qualified for a World Cup, and I think we need to maintain those kind of standards.
“We should be disappointed if we don’t go to a World Cup, it’s not about saying ‘well, let’s just miss one so we can learn’.
“We’ve done enough learning, our expectation should be to qualify for World Cups all the time.”