The Road to Brazil: Group B rivals

With the Qantas Socceroos set to begin the next stage of qualfying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it's worth looking at our opposition in Group B.

With the Qantas Socceroos set to begin the next stage of qualfying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, it's worth looking at our opposition in Group B.

Iraq FIFA ranking: 72*

The Qantas Socceroos are scheduled to face Iraq in October, which will give Holger Osieck plenty of time to prepare for these now familiar rivals.

Under the coaching of Brazil legend Zico, the Lions of Mesopotamia cruised through the Round 3 losing only once - a 2-0 defeat to Jordan - to secure their spot in Round 4. Their impressive record reads W6, D1, L1, GF16, GA4.

Iraq captain Younis Mahmoud has come out firing, saying that his side aren-t afraid of group favourites Qantas Socceroos and Japan, and instead points to their Middle East rivals as more dangerous opponents.

“Some may fear Australia and Japan, but I'm against that and we don't fear anybody," he told

"If we should fear somebody it'd be Jordan and Oman, as they will be facing us aggressively seeking to demonstrate their abilities.”

The Qantas Socceroos hold an historical 4-2 win record over Iraq (with one draw) but the past three encounters have all been tight fixtures won by a solitary goal. Iraq also won 1-0 in Dubai during qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The last time the two met, in January last year, the Qantas Socceroos inflicted a 1-0 defeat to claim a spot in the AFC Asian Cup 2011 semi-final.

No trip to the Middle East is an easy game and Iraq arguably represent Group B-s potential banana skin for the Qantas Socceroos.

Jordan FIFA ranking: 81

The Qantas Socceroos have never faced Jordan before and Holger Osieck will be quietly confident that this first meeting will be a positive one for Qantas Socceroos.

But as the Qantas Socceroos have now learnt, no team in Asia can be taken for granted. This is the first time Jordan has reached this stage of qualifying and they did so with impressive form - winning four out of six, including a 2-0 away victory over Iraq, qualifying with two games to spare, ahead of China in Group A.

But despite reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2011, Adnan Hamad-s side are yet to be tested by Asia-s biggest footballing nations, and the Qantas Socceroos will expect a professional performances to secure the points they need to progress.

Oman FIFA ranking 92

The Qantas Socceroos have faced Oman regularly since joining the Asian Football Confederation, and have learnt that the tiny nation can present some very tough opposition - even stunning Qantas Socceroos with a 1-0 defeat in Muscat last November.

Oman finished second in Group D of Round 3, but were inconsistent at best, with a record that reads W2 D2 L2, and a frankly unbelievable three goals scored, with six against.

More recently, Oman have had positive results - just against smaller footballing nations, such as Congo DR and India.

Given the Qantas Socceroos experience playing Paul Le Guen-s team, Holger Osieck will look to avenge that defeat in Muscat in Round 4 qualifying.

Japan FIFA ranking 30

After facing each other 19 times over the years, the Qantas Socceroos and Japan are still even, with five draws and seven wins apiece.

Both have scored memorable victories over the other; the Qantas Socceroos will always remember their dramatic 3-1 comeback in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but they would probably like to forget the 1-0 defeat in last year-s AFC Asian Cup 2011 final in Doha.

Alberto Zaccheroni-s side starting their qualifying campaign well, only to stutter midway through Round 3, losing to Uzbekistan and Korea DPR as they finished second in their group.

But the Blue Samurai can never be discounted and represent the biggest threat to the Qantas Socceroos- aims of finishing on top of Group B.

Japan-s AFC Asian Cup triumph will put Holger Osieck on notice that Zaccheroni-s talented squad, including the likes of midfielder Keisuke Honda and strikers Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki, are certainly the biggest obstacle in Qantas Socceroos-s way.

The Qantas Socceroos- Group B campaign may kick off against Oman but it-s the fascinating fixture four days later against Japan in Brisbane that will really pose Osieck-s biggest test so far on the road to Brazil.

*Based on 9 May 2012 FIFA World Rankings.

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