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June 27, 2017

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Australia, Iraq to face up in significant match for World Cup qualification

SEOUL -- Holger Osieck and his Australian squad are already in the danger zone as the last stage of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup approaches the halfway mark.

Neither Australia nor Iraq can afford to lose when they meet in a Group B clash at Doha on Tuesday.

Both teams have two points from the opening three games. With Japan already racing ahead in first place on 10 points, the second automatic qualification spot in the group is a four-way tussle. Jordan, with four points, can strengthen its hold on second place with a win when it hosts Oman at Muscat.

After defeat in Jordan last month, which caused Australia to slip from 25th to 34th in FIFA's world rankings, the Socceroos are aware that another loss would be a massive setback in its hopes to qualify for a third successive World Cup.

"Everybody was unhappy but that doesn't help us," Australia coach Osieck said in the wake of the upset loss at Jordan. "To be unhappy or to really step up and resist and fight against it is a different story, and I can tell you I have the right determination for that and I will get it across to the players."

The loss at Amman deepened concerns about Australia's form — the team has lost three of its last six matches and its only win was a 3-0 victory in a friendly against Lebanon.

Brett Holman, who plays for English Premier League team Aston Villa, is urging his teammates to return to the standards set when Osieck first took the reins in September 2010.

"He wants to get back to when he first took over and to get back to that attacking football and those combinations," Holman said. "He wants to get back to the way things were. I think if you look at the last few games, we haven't done that at all — Lebanon was decent but ... then we went to Jordan and didn't look good at all. The last few games we haven't played great football."

A draw would suit Australia more than Iraq, because three of its last four group games are at home.

Iraq coach Zico told Brazilian television last week that he had not been paid for four months, expressing his disappointment for the "lack of consideration" for his work. In Iraq's last qualifier, at Japan in September, the Brazilian manager made 10 changes to Iraq's starting lineup. It remains to be seen whether the stars of the nation's 2007 Asian Cup win will be recalled on Tuesday.

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