FOOTBALL: Despite the Socceroos being held to an embarrassing 2-2 draw by Thailand in Bangkok, coach Ange Postecoglou remains confident his team is on the path to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Postecoglou's men have drawn the last three games in Group B of qualifying to slip into third place and out of the top two spots that guarantee automatic progression.
On a disappointing night for Australia, South Korea and Japan enjoyed 2-1 wins over Uzbekistan in Seoul and Saudi Arabia in Saitama, respectively.
The latter results lifted the Japanese into second place, level on 10 points with the Saudis, with Australia a point behind with five games left to play.
"We are not satisfied as we we want to get maximum points from every game and we have not done that,” said Postecoglou, who is now focussing on the second half of the qualification period.
"From our perspective, we have had three tough away trips. Next year we will have three games at home and we also play Iraq in neutral territory.
"The back half of our program is still looking very good. We can finish strongly and that is what we will try and do.”
Australia's next game is against Iraq on March 23 away from home with a venue yet to be confirmed. It is followed by home games against United Arab Emirates on March 28 and Saudi Arabia on June 8.
The final away trip is to Japan on August 31 with the group ending with a home tie with Thailand on September 5.
"We have to reflect on the football tonight, which wasn't up to our usual standard and we will try to rectify that but overall, we are still quite comfortable,” Postecoglou said.
Australia needed two Mile Jedinak penalties to cancel out Teerasil Dangda's brace in a hard-fought clash at the Rajamangala Stadium.
"We have to give credit to Thailand, they were up for the game and rose to the occasion,” Postecoglou said.
"Sometimes we were our own worst enemy and gave the ball away cheaply, allowing them back into the game.”
Keeper Mat Ryan was scathing of the Socceroos, calling them lazy after Thailand fought back from being a goal behind to take a 2-1 lead.
"What's up for grabs is a position at the World Cup and we have to be aware that every team is willing to die in order to achieve that and we have to be better than them with that aspect,” he said.
"We've got to go away and if we're an honest group, we're obviously going to assess it. We're going to quickly learn from this - we can't change the past but there's a lesson to be learned.
"The biggest point was carelessly giving the ball away. When we do that, it's probably only going to give ourselves problems ... (and) being lazy in taking up positions.
"I don't know if the conditions affected some of us or not but at the end of the day it's just not good enough.
"The pressure's always there when there's something important to be playing for.”
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