Australia aim to avoid more Asian away day woes when they travel to Amman to take on Jordan in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, looking for a win that would kickstart their bid to reach a third consecutive finals.
The Socceroos stuttered to an opening draw in the sweltering heat of Oman before improving to claim another point last time out against Japan, who have moved into pole position in the race to become the first Asian team to qualify.
Twelve points was enough to advance from the five-team pool four years ago and Japan should make it to 10 after their fourth match, at home to 2007 Asian Cup winners Iraq, on Tuesday.
Australia and Japan are the favourites to claim the two available places from Group B for the finals in Brazil but the Socceroos will be wary of underdogs Jordan, particularly because of their patchy record on the road.
The Socceroos slipped to a 1-0 defeat in Oman in the previous round of qualifiers and made hard work of lowly Thailand before edging the Bangkok game by a single goal.
That followed failures to win in Indonesia and Kuwait in qualifying for the 2011 Asian Cup, and more recently, two goal-margin defeats to Scotland and Denmark.
The Australians picked up their first win since February in beating Lebanon in a Beirut friendly on Thursday, giving them a confidence boost ahead of the match against the Asian Cup quarter-finalists, who are bottom of the group with one point from two matches.
Jordan were thrashed 6-0 away by Japan in June but are usually more formidable at home in hot temperatures that have often proved the downfall to the older, slower Australian side.
“It’s a big challenge (against Jordan), the conditions are going to be very, very extreme again,” 39-year-old Socceroos goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer told reporters after the win over Lebanon.
“It was good preparation for us because the conditions are going to be similar, so hopefully we can go to Jordan and continue where we left off.”
Japan were also in friendly action on Thursday as they pulled off a less than impressive 1-0 win at home to United Arab Emirates.
Shinji Kagawa might be earning plaudits for the start to his Manchester United career but Japan boss Alberto Zaccheroni was less than impressed with the diminutive attacker, hauling him off at halftime following a series of failed elaborate tricks.
Kagawa’s profile has risen dramatically in Japan following his 17 million euros ($21.48 million) move to England but in the eyes of experienced Italian coach Zaccheroni, he plays second fiddle to playmaker Keisuke Honda.
CSKA Moscow’s Honda has been impressive form in the opening three games of the fourth round for Japan and he is expected to continue in the much coveted role just behind the striker with an unhappy Kagawa pushed out to the left.
“Obviously I always want to play in the hole but no matter what I say (to the coach) the situation isn’t going to change,” Kagawa told reporters this week.
“That’s the way it goes and basically I just have to deliver results in whichever position I am played in.”
In Group A, South Korea lead the way but face a tricky trip to Tashkent to take on Uzbekistan, who have only one point after a home loss to Iran and a disappointing draw in Lebanon.
The Koreans are bidding for an eighth consecutive finals appearance and should they maintain their 100 percent start with a third win on Tuesday they will be close to achieving their goal.
However, they will have to line up without goal scoring midfielder Koo Ja-cheol, who injured his ankle playing for Augsburg in Germany and has not been called up.
Bottom-placed Lebanon (one point) host second-placed Iran (four points) in the other Group A match.