AFC World Cup Qualifying – Group B 4th Stage

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Just like Group A, Group B has been on leave on since the end of March.  However, unlike group A, there is a little bit less room for movement within the standings as Japan has opened up a 6 point lead on surprise second place Jordan.

Looking back at the March fixtures, we’ll see how each team ended up where they currently stand.  The first match had Australia host Oman in Sydney.  This was a massive chance for the Socceroos to put Oman in serious trouble.  Both sides were level on points entering the match and Australia had a game in hand.  A win for Australia would have sent them 3 points clear and still have 1 more game to play.  Instead, the Aussies struggled mightily against the West Asian side and required an 85th minute equalizer to grab their share of the spoils.  That game in hand is now an away fixture at group leader Japan.

Japan had to travel all the way to Jordan in round 7.  Any points claimed would have been enough for them to be the first Asian team to qualify.  However, Jordan jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first 60 minutes.  Japan were only able to pull one back and suffered their first defeat in qualifying since dropping a meaningless 3rd round match at home to Uzbekistan 1-0.

Here are the current standings in Group B:

Team Points GD Games
Japan 13 +10 thru 6
Jordan 7 -6 thru 6
Australia 6 0 thru 5
Oman 6 -3 thru 6
Iraq 5 -1 thru 5

 

Japan have a clear path to Brazil.  A 2 game cushion on Jordan with a 16 goal lead in goal differential is virtually insurmountable.  Everyone else’s trail remains covered in shrubbery as only 2 points separate 2nd place from the bottom of the table.

Let’s have a look at the remaining fixtures and make our best guess at what the group B outcome will be.

 

June 4th, 2013
Oman v Iraq
Japan v Australia

June 11th, 2013
Australia Jordan
Iraq v Japan

June 18th, 2013
Australia v Iraq
Jordan v Oman

 

The next step for us here would be to run those remaining fixtures into xCRO and see what the probability of each team’s outcome would be.  Before you even look at the results, you’d full expect to Japan as in with such a big lead and a home game remaining.  Away at Iraq doesn’t appear as if it would give Japan any worries.

Percent of Total
Team Auto Play-Off Out
Japan 100.00% 0.00% 0.00%
Australia 50.44% 23.64% 25.92%
Jordan 24.20% 32.76% 43.04%
Oman 11.32% 25.84% 62.84%
Iraq 14.04% 17.76% 68.20%

 

As expected, xCRO sees no scenario that can occur which results in Japan not qualifying directly for Brazil.  It’s only a matter of time before the bottles of sake can be popped and the karaoke parties can rage into the night.

Also, xCRO favors Australia to leapfrog Jordan and claim the second automatic berth.  Despite the difficult fixture they have at Japan, the extra game appears to be the reason for the slight advantage.

 

Oman v Iraq

This match between the 4th and 5th place teams will have a great impact on the race for the play-off position.  The reverse fixture in Doha resulted in a 1-1 draw.  3 points for each team would be huge but I can’t see it happening.  5 of their combined 11 games this round have ended all square.  I expect more of the same here.

Prediction: Draw

 

Japan v Australia

As previously stated, this is a hugely important match for Australia.  This is their chance to overtake Jordan before facing them in Melbourne a week later.  Any result for Japan will see them qualify.  Unfortunately for the Socceroos, I don’t see them making qualifying any easier on themselves.  Their campaign appears headed for the long haul.

Prediction: Japan by 2

 

Assuming these results become a reality, here’s the standing after matchday 8:

Team Points Games Status
Japan 16 thru 7 *Qualified
Oman 7 thru 7
Jordan 7 thru 6
Australia 6 thru 6
Iraq 6 thru 6

 

Australia v Jordan

It doesn’t get much bigger than this.  Australia will have their backs against the proverbial wall here when they welcome Jordan to Melbourne.  To make matters even more complicated, there is much at stake for Jordan as well.  As you can see, a loss would not eliminate them, but points here would probably be the most important of their campaign.  Things get better for Australia here and sun begins to shine down under.

Prediction: Australia by 2

 

Iraq v Japan

The celebration in Japan from qualifying doesn’t last very long as they have a cross-continent flight to Doha on their agenda.  A desperate Iraq will be holding on for dear life as they will most likely already know the Australia result before they take the pitch.  With no home support and facing a superior opponent, look for Japan to put Iraq on notice.

Prediction: Japan by 2

 

Here’s what we’re predicting the group B standings to look like after matchday 9:

Team Points Games Status
Japan 19 thru 8 *Qualified
Australia 9 thru 7
Oman 7 thru 7
Jordan 7 thru 7
Iraq 6 thru 7

 

Australia v Iraq

This will be the third huge match for Australia in a matter of 2 weeks.  I think having the last two at home is tremendous advantage.  There is a considerable amount of travel required in this group for away games and the Aussies really would be in trouble if they had to travel to any of the West Asian nations.  That being said, you hope the pressure of needed results out of each game doesn’t get to them.  Any points dropped here could leave them exposed to be eliminated on goal differential pending the result of the other fixture.  Luckily for them, Iraq is arguably the weakest side in the group and their road form has dipped recently, winless in their last 3.

Prediction: Australia by 2

 

Jordan v Oman

Assuming an Australia win, this match becomes essentially a play-in for the play-off position.  We’re expecting Oman to hold the edge in goal differential heading into this match, would plays a huge part.  A draw or win for Oman would see them through to face Iran in the play-off.  A win for either also results in the same.  This game should be pulsating and is the match to watch of the remaining fixtures.

Prediction: Jordan by 1

 

Here’s the projected final standing for group B:

Team Points Status
Japan 19 *Qualified
Australia 12 *Qualified
Jordan 10 **Play-off
Oman 7
Iraq 6

 

Compared to the group A analysis, this group appears to have a much more exciting finish in store despite Japan already having 1 foot in the door.

Thanks again for reading.  Be sure to stop by for more AFC analysis as the drama unfolds next month!

AFC Correspondent
-Matt

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