July 15, 2017 / 2:39 AM / in 11 days

Australia to play 'pivotal' World Cup qualifier in Melbourne

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's crucial final World Cup qualifying match against Thailand on Sept. 5 has been confirmed for Melbourne's Rectangular Stadium, Football Federation Australia said on Saturday.

The Socceroos are currently third in Asian Group B for the finals next year in Russia on 16 points, one behind leaders Japan and on the same points as second-placed Saudi Arabia, who have a better goal difference.

The top two sides in each of the two groups in the third round of Asia qualifying will advance directly to the finals in Russia. The two third placed teams then play each other for a spot in an intercontinental playoff.

Ange Postecoglou's side, whose penultimate match is against Japan in Saitama on Aug. 31, are likely to have to beat the winless Thais, and comfortably, in Melbourne to seal one of the automatic qualifying places.

"Its definitely crunch time in the qualification campaign and this match against Thailand will be pivotal," FFA chief executive David Gallop said in a statement on Saturday.

"This match could very well be one of those 'where were you?' moments.

"Ange and his team have been preparing for this moment for the past two and a half years and we encourage all sports fans to support the boys as they look to secure direct qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup."

Saudi Arabia play their penultimate match against the United Arab Emirates in Al Ain before they host Japan in Jeddah on Sept. 5.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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