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View From Down Under: Socceroos to Face Japan in Biggest Qualifier This Decade

Australia finds itself just one win away from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but first it must beat its fiercest regional rival at home.

The Socceroos go into Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against Japan in Saitama as underdogs after an uninspiring campaign. But Australia’s chances of qualifying received a massive boost with the United Arab Emirates’ 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia this week.

Australia can advance to soccer’s showpiece in Russia with a win over Japan, while a draw would also strengthen its qualifying hopes.

Australian fans will be mightily tempted by the $4.20 (+320) on offer for a Socceroos win, despite the Samurai Blues’ impressive recent record. Vahid Halilhodzic’s Japan side sits atop Group B with 17 points from eight games, one point ahead of the Socceroos.

Japan has also won two of its last five meetings against Australia, with the other three drawn, making it the $1.85 (-118) favorite to take the win.

If Australia earns a draw in Japan, it would need to beat bottom-placed Thailand in Melbourne next month to qualify.

The Socceroos have called up Adelaide winger Awer Mabil to its squad, while goalkeeper Adam Federici has replaced Mitch Langerak. Captain Mile Jedinak will not play as he recovers from injury.

In golf, Adam Scott returns to the PGA Tour for the Dell Technologies Championship after skipping last week’s Northern Trust for the birth of his second child, a boy, Byron.

Scott is 73rd in the FedEx Cup points list and his timely return gives him a chance to reach the top-70 cut-off for the BMW Championship.

The Australian needs at least a top-35 finish on the TPC Boston course to continue his season, and William Hill has him at equal ninth favorite on $34 (+3300) for a win.

Jason Day finished a promising sixth at the Northern Trust and looks on track to return to his best after a challenging season off the course.

The former No. 1 finished his final round at Glen Oaks Club with a 67 and he is third favorite to win this week on $15 (+1400).

In the NRL, the Cowboys open the round with a huge clash against fellow Queensland club Brisbane on Thursday night. If the seventh-place North Queensland side are to continue their unlikely run toward a seventh straight finals campaign, they’ll need to produce something special against the third-place Broncos.

The Cowboys are on $2.60 (+160) to win at home, with their rivals in at $1.50 (-200).