Stadium Australia to host Roos’ Japan WCQ

Anna Harrington |

The Socceroos have turned to the scene of several of their greatest triumphs, Stadium Australia, for their crunch World Cup qualifier against Japan on March 24.

Australia — who haven’t beaten Japan since 2009 and lost the away qualifier 2-1 in Saitama in October — will hope a bumper crowd in their first game at Stadium Australia in four years can help clear a crucial hurdle on their road to Qatar 2022.

The Socceroos are precariously placed third in Group B, five points behind leaders Saudi Arabia and one behind Japan, before Thursday’s clash with Vietnam at AAMI Park — the first of their final four games.

The top two teams will secure direct qualification to the World Cup later this year, with the third-placed finishers facing a playoff.

Stadium Australia famously hosted the 2005 play-off win over Uruguay that broke the Socceroos’ long World Cup drought.

It was also the scene of Josh Kennedy’s winning goal against Iraq in 2013 and more recently hosted the victories over Syria and Honduras that sent the Socceroos to the 2018 World Cup.

“We have no doubt the entire nation will unite behind the Socceroos, so giving two months’ notice enhances the opportunity for fans to plan a pilgrimage to Stadium Australia in Sydney for what will be the most important Socceroos match played in Australia since Honduras in 2017,” Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said.

“Stadium Australia has hosted many famous Socceroos nights in the past, including Uruguay in 2005, Iraq in 2013, and the AFC Asian Cup Final against Korea Republic in 2015, and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the match against Japan in March 2022 goes down as another historic and memorable night at the venue.”

Sydney was secured as the venue for the match via a financial partnership between Football Australia and the NSW government.

The Socceroos will face Vietnam in front of a sell-out crowd in Melbourne — but without coach Graham Arnold after he tested positive for COVID-19 — before they play Oman away on February 2.

After hosting Japan, Australia will close the group stage with a tough away trip to face Saudi Arabia on March 29.