The Socceroos’ upcoming World Cup qualifier against China will prove to be an even greater test with the match set to take place away from home.
Originally slated for Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium, the Socceroos’ opening match of the third round of the Asian Football Confederation’s qualifiers will instead be played at a neutral venue in Asia on September 2.
Efforts to secure a travel bubble that would allow the Socceroos’ travelling overseas-based players to avoid a two-week quarantine period upon their arrival in Australia have proven challenging to navigate with state and federal governments.
Australia and China are the only two countries of the 12 remaining AFC nations in the running for World Cup qualification to have faced such problems with bringing players back home.
Football Australia (FA) is considering its options in the lead up to the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but a prospective home game against China in Europe is not allowed under AFC qualifying rules.
A decision is expected next week, with UAE, Qatar and a host of South-East Asian nations being considered to stage the match.
FA Chief Executive Officer James Johnson acknowledged the challenging circumstances of losing a home game.
“Our home game in September will be away, and that’s a significant sporting disadvantage,” he said.
“If you look at home records versus away records at this level, home records count for a hell of a lot – it’s an extra player on the pitch. That’s our big challenge at the moment.”
The Socceroos’ subsequent qualifier against Vietnam will go ahead in Hanoi on September 7 as planned.
Continued discussions with government, and an eventual drop in COVID-19 cases around Australia, could potentially see the Socceroos host previously scheduled home qualifiers in October and November against Oman and Saudi Arabia.
“I’m confident that we will be playing at home by the end of the year if we can get things under control, particularly in Sydney,” Johnson said.
“We’re talking to governments trying to get similar exemptions to other countries around the world so that our sporting teams can play at home, and of course that would be under strict bubbles.
“The players wouldn’t have any interaction with the community. The transmission of Covid would be zero.
“The players are tested every day at their clubs, and they’re monitored every day. They’re already in bubbles.”
Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold flew to Dubai following the completion of the Olyroos’ Tokyo Olympics campaign and will remain in the UAE, rather than return to Australia and be forced to serve a two-week quarantine period.