Ange Postecoglou and Nathan Burns have applauded Thailand for earning an unexpected 2-2 draw with Australia in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier. Two Mile Jedinak fforts – both from the spot – and an admirable performance from Valencia goalkeeper Mat Ryan earned the Socceroos a 2-2 draw in Bangkok, which dropped them to third in Group B, one point behind Saudi Arabia and Japan.
"We have to give credit to Thailand, they were up for the game and rose to the occasion,” said Postecoglou, who left Tim Cahill out of his squad for the match to preserve him for an examining 2017. “Sometimes we were our own worst enemy and gave the ball away cheaply, allowing them back into the game. I can't fault the players’ efforts but we were a bit careless in possession.”
Burns, who impressed after coming on just before the hour, concurred with his coach. “It was a tough game but full credit to Thailand – they actually came out and played,” said the 28-year-old FC Tokyo attacker told Fox Sports.
“They played with their hearts on the line and you wouldn’t expect them to be bottom of the group. I actually thought they were going to run away with it.
“The boys did work hard but maybe some final pieces we didn’t string together. But we need to go back and work on that. The last couple of games we probably haven’t been up to scratch. We’ve got a long four months off now. Where Ange and everyone can think about it and then come back for the next stage [of qualification].”
The top two in the pool qualify automatically for Russia 2018. Postecoglou believes that, given three of Australia’s remaining five games are at home, they are in a good position to reach a fourth successive World Cup.
“We've come up a couple of points short of where we wanted to be,” said the Greece-born former Australia defender. “But I still think we're well placed. We've had three tough away trips and still haven't lost.”
The Socceroos’ best performance at the World Cup came in 2006, when a thrilling 3-1 comeback victory over Japan helped them reach the Round of 16, where they gave eventual champions Italy a serious fright before going down 1-0.