There are two Inter-Confederation playoff fixtures to be played in June. Australia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) will fight it out on June 7th for a chance to meet Peru, on June 13th. The second playoff features the sole representative of Oceania: New Zealand. The Kiwis will face off with Costa Rica on June 14th for a ticket to the biggest stage in football.
Inter-Confederation playoff spot up for grabs
Australia will face the UAE after both sides finished 3rd in their respective groups. The winner claims the prize of an Inter-Confederation showdown with South Americans, Peru.
Australia got off to the perfect start to qualifying, winning 3 from 3. But the Aussies failed to build on their strong start, losing their next four games before a win over Vietnam.
Australia were still eyeing automatic qualification with a top 2 finish before their game vs Japan. The 2-0 defeat, in front of a packed 40,000 crowd, left the Wallabies out of touch with the group leaders Japan and Saudi Arabia. Their attention then turned to securing 3rd spot and a place in the playoffs. The home defeat to Japan was Australia’s first loss on home soil in 40 years.
Australia’s stars to watch
Some of Australia’s stars have played huge parts in their club’s success over recent weeks. Star midfielder, Ajdin Hrustic, has made national headlines this week scoring a decisive penalty in Frankfurt’s European triumph. He was subbed on at the halfway point in extra time and calmly slotted his penalty past the keeper, helping German side Frankfurt to their first European success in 40 years.
Hrustic also created some history of his own! The Socceroo became the first Australian to win a European trophy since Liverpool’s Harry Kewell in 2005.
Bailey Wright and Joel King were also involved in some decisive games around Europe. Wright, defender for EFL League One side Sunderland, helped guide his club into the play off final. He was heavily praised for his performances in Sunderland’s play off victory, justifying man of the match selection.
King, Australia’s 21 year old full back has a huge final week to the season ahead of him. He plays club football with Danish side Odensk BK. Odesnk face Vejle on Sunday, needing a win to stand a chance of qualifying for UEFA Europa Conference league next season. And four days later, they have the chance to claim their first silverware for 15 years against FC Midtjylland. King will be hoping to finish the season strong before meeting up with the Australian squad in June.
Eyes on the UAE
The UAE will be hoping to reproduce the success of 1990 – the last time they made it to the World Cup finals.
They finished a comfortable 3rd behind Korea and Iran. They couldn’t match the top two nations in group A but cinched the Inter-Confederation spot with little fuss. The Whites had almost certainly wrapped up 3rd place before the final group game with their superior goal difference. They faced Korea in their final qualifying game, winning 1-0 after a brave display with only 22% possession.
The UAE’s defence remained solid throughout the campaign. The Whites conceded an average of 0.7 goals per game and only once conceded more than one goal (vs Iraq). All four group defeats finished 1-0.
With a more threatening attacking unit, the group could be looking a lot different. In the UAE’s qualifying campaign, they averaged 0.7 goals per game. In comparison to the group leaders, Korea republic averaged 1.3 goals per game with Iran averaging 1.5.
Head to Head
There have been a total of six games between the UAE and Australia. Australia have taken the win on three of these occasions, losing once and drawing the remaining two. The most recent fixture took place in January 2019, playing in the Asian Cup Quarter Final. On this occasion, the UAE narrowly defeated Australia 1-0 to advance into the semis.
The game between Australia and the UAE should be competitive. The likes of Mooy, Degenek, Mclaren and Sansbury all have World Cup experience from the Socceroos 2018 squad. On top of that, Australia’s players have been involved in bigger games across Europe. Their experience in big games will certainly play in their favour and may prove the difference.
Overall, the game should be close with the UAE’s defensive stats. However, I believe Australia will prove too much and advance to the Inter-Confederation playoff.
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