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Socceroos heading to Sharjah to meet China



China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.

The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.

However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.

As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.

China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.

The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.

However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.

City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.

Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.

City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.

Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.

Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.

The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.

China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.

The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China




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Socceroos; Australia will play first home game in more than two years in November.



Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup has suddenly taken on a whole new look for the Socceroos after a big announcement.

The Socceroos are finally coming home after 763 days on the road and will play their next World Cup qualifier in Sydney.

A clash with Saudi Arabia is locked in at Western Sydney Stadium in Parramatta on Thursday, November 11, the first match at home for the Socceroos since taking on Nepal in Canberra in October 2019.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold had urged NSW government officials to throw open the door to fans after a last-start loss to Japan ended an 11-match winning streak.

The stadium will be at 75 per cent capacity for the game, which means up to 22,500 people will be able to cheer on Arnold’s men.

“I believe that playing in front of home fans at a beautiful stadium and on a great pitch will help us,” Arnold said.

“Fans can provide energy to players and teams, and after having been away from Australia for so long, I expect that our players will harness and use the support that will be in Western Sydney Stadium on November 11.

“Now I urge the players, together with the fans, to enjoy the moment and feed off one another’s energy as together we strive to take another positive step towards qualification for Qatar.”

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said it was a big moment for the Socceroos to come home.

“The Socceroos are an iconic Australian team and one that has always enjoyed a very close connection with the Australian public,” he said.

“Unfortunately, throughout the team’s pursuit of qualification for a fifth consecutive World Cup, they have had to play 11 of their 12 matches abroad.

“Despite the challenges which this has presented, the Socceroos have performed exceptionally well.

“We’re delighted that the team will have the opportunity to return to Australia to continue their World Cup quest in front of Australian fans.

“It will also be a chance for the Australian public to witness some exciting new national team talent, including players like Ajdin Hrustic, Martin Boyle, and Harry Souttar who have been making great contributions to the squad throughout 2021.”

“We thank the NSW government for working closely with us to bring the Socceroos home in line with their Reopening NSW road map.”

Australia will play its second match of November’s FIFA window against China on Tuesday, November 16. The details of this match are yet to be finalised.

Final home fixtures against Vietnam and Japan next January and March are also set to be played in Australia, with borders open and quarantine restrictions being eased.

COMING HOME

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar (Final Round)

Matchday 5: Australia v Saudi Arabia

Date: Thursday, November 11, 2021

Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta

Kick-off: 8:05pm AEDT

Originally published as Socceroos will play first game on home soil for more than two years against Saudi Arabia in Sydney




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Wallabies; Reece Hodge ruled out of entire European tour and Quade Cooper could follow



The Wallabies are on a rare winning streak but that could change soon with a host of players no longer available for Tests in Europe.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will have to look for more overseas reinforcements to their squad for the northern hemisphere tour after ruling out Reece Hodge for the rest of the year.

Hodge suffered a pectoral injury during last Saturday’s 32-23 win over Japan and scans after the game confirmed he would be sidelined for a considerable time.

The injury to Hodge comes on the back of the Wallabies losing Japan-based duo Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon, who opted not to travel to Europe, a decision that raised the ire of Rugby Australia.

Quade Cooper could also join the exodus from the squad to link up with his Japanese club.

Rennie said the latest injury, exits and absence of superstar winger Marika Koroibete and Pone Fa’amausili from the original 37-man squad left the Wallabies “a bit thin”.

With regular fullback Tom Banks also out with a broken arm, Kurtley Beale, who is playing in England, will likely join the squad, but Rennie will have to add a few more names too.

Rennie said he was hesitant to look back to Australia to avoid jeopardising players’ pre-seasons.

“We’ll need more than one with leaving Marika and Pone at home and we didn’t replace any of those guys,” he said.

“With Hodgey injured and those guys not coming from Japan, we’re just a little bit thin.

“We’ve got to get board approval because again our preference is to not drag those guys over from Australia. They’re a fair way through their time off and active rest. We’ve got a really good plan for them for the pre-season.

“We’ve made contact with Kurtley, and we’ve had conversations with Kurtley over a period of time.

“He’s made it really clear his desire to be a Wallaby again, and with the introduction of some of the guys he played with previously, he was pretty excited by that. “

The Wallabies will play Tests against Scotland, England and Wales, starting with a clash against the Scots on November 8.

Originally published as Wallabies coach Dave Rennie needs reinforcements as injuries and withdrawals hit European tour hard




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Biden says US would defend Taiwan against China invasion



Map showing Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), and the area most frequently enchroached on by China’s military jets, according to the island’s ministry of defense announcements via Twitter.

The United States will defend Taiwan if China attacks it, President Joe Biden said, prompting a warning from Beijing on Friday that its determination to take back the democratic island should not be underestimated.

Authoritarian China regards self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if needed.

At a CNN town hall, Biden was asked whether the US would come to Taiwan’s defence if China invaded. “Yes,” he responded. “We have a commitment to that.”

The policy is designed to deter a Chinese invasion and also discourage Taiwan from formally declaring independence — something Beijing regards as a red line.

“The US government has demonstrated, through actual actions, their rock solid support for Taiwan,” Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement.

“China has no room for compromise on issues involving its core interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing.

Biden made a similar pledge in August during an interview with ABC, insisting that the US would always defend key allies, including Taiwan, despite the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the face of the victorious Taliban.

The White House subsequently told reporters on both occasions that US policy on Taiwan “has not changed.”

“I suspect Biden was not trying to announce any change. So it was either loose language, or perhaps a slightly harder tone, deliberately adopted because of the way Beijing has increased the tempo of its military harassment of Taiwan recently,” he told AFP. 

China has ramped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who views Taiwan as already sovereign and not part of “one China.”

According to an AFP tally, more than 800 flights have been made into the zone since September last year — 170 just this month. 

At Thursday’s live town hall, Biden was also asked by an audience member whether the United States would be able to keep up with China’s rapid military development. 

“Don’t worry about whether… they’re going to be more powerful,” he said. “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we have the most powerful military in the history of the world.”

He referred to his longtime relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and repeated his position that he does not want “to start a new Cold War with China.”

Biden’s comments also come in the wake of a Financial Times report that China has tested a state-of-the-art hypersonic missile with nuclear capacity that flew around the planet before landing, albeit not on target. 

Originally published as Biden says US would defend Taiwan against China invasion




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