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Australia look for World Cup qualifier quick fix after Japan setback

Tokyo (AFP) – Australia need to hit back immediately after a lacklustre 2-0 defeat by Japan dented their chances of reaching next year’s World Cup.

The Asian champions were comfortably beaten in Saitama on Thursday and will be looking to beat Thailand handily at home in their final Group B qualifier on Tuesday — and hope Japan do them a favour in Saudi Arabia.

“We’re relying on other results which is a position we didn’t want to be in,” said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou after his side went from the brink of automatic qualification to flirting with a playoff.

“The team we put out there was certainly good enough to get the job done. We had our moments but we never really got going.”

Australia have appeared at the last three World Cups, reaching the knockout stages in 2006 with a golden generation of players such as Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill.

Postecoglou led the Socceroos to their first Asian Cup title on home soil two years ago but they have struggled to impose themselves in the final round of Asian World Cup qualifying.

The evergreen Cahill came on as a second-half substitute on Thursday but failed to make a significant impact as Japan went on to book their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia thanks to goals from Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi.

“We’re just disappointed we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” said Postecoglou, who lost playmaker Aaron Mooy through illness before kickoff.

“We just never got control of the midfield the way we wanted to. We had possession but not real effective possession.

“We turned the ball over in transition and they’ve got the ability to hit you quickly. We just did that too often and brought them into the game. We just couldn’t get a hold of that central area the way we wanted to.”

Asked what went wrong in Japan, Australia’s stand-in skipper Mark Milligan said: “At the moment, I can’t pinpoint it. It’s a hard one to take.”

But Milligan, deputising for the injured Mile Jedinak, insisted Australia would find a way to qualify for their fifth World Cup.

“We need to look at it, see what went wrong and fix it up because we have a massive game in a few days,” he said.

“We’ll move forward, but we need to do it pretty quickly. I have no doubt we will be fine.”

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