Socceroos Close To Becoming the First Team to Qualify for the World Cup Finals
Super-sub Josh Kennedy's header from a brilliant cross from Mark Bresciano, and a cool as ever penalty from Harry Kewell, put Australia in contention to become the first team to qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa. The Aussies started slowly, but in front of a 57,000 strong Stadium Australia crowd, the Uzbeks would not ruin their party, as their quest to revenge their cruel loss in Germany in 2006 continues.
Asians make progress
It was all Australia at Stadium Austalia, as a packed house saw the Aussies go ever closer to their dream of becoming part of South Africa 2010. However, it was the Central Asians that got the ball rolling, with early inroads into the Aussie defence. They provided some attacking crosses and made progress down the wings.
The Uzbeks had two great opportunities to open the scoring with a ball crossed in from the byline blocked by a swarm of Australian players in the box, only for Farhod Tadjiyev, hat-trick hero in their last game, to skew wide of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer's far post.
Tadijev, the target man for the Uzbeks was replaced after 58 minutes, and the Central Asians found it tough going. Their defence began to open up and even though they did have a chance when Sakhob Jurayev hammered the ball just past the left post, they never looked like lasting the entire 90 minutes. Uzbekistan's fatigue was understandable, as they had just come off the plane after a 4-0 win at the weekend in Tashkent.
Aussies go on the offensive
Jason Culina's swerving effort was tipped over the crossbar athletically by Nesterov, minutes after Tadjiev was replaced. This was the first part of a big Aussie offensive. The Socceroos got the 57,000 strong crowd going as they pushed for more goals from set pieces.
It was the Aussies that struck first. Mark Bresciano, the Italy-based player, and one of the key members of the squad, had seen his first attempt go straight into the hands of Uzbek goalkeeper Nesterov. However, his second chance was golden. His pinpoint cross landed straight on the head of super-sub Josh Kennedy, who scored perhaps the most important goal of his life to head home for Australia.
What followed was a sloppy period of play from the Uzbeks, who looked tired and exhausted from the long trip from Tashkent. The ball was being passed around in their half as the penetrative Aussies put pressure on them. The ball then lobbed up nicely for Richard Garcia, who was allegedly brought down by Hayrulla Karimov, although replays showed the ball was long gone. Harry Kewell slotted home nicely with a powerful drive to the bottom right corner, and even though Nesterov went the right way, the Aussies were 2-0 up.
The Socceroos definitely look likely to be the first team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa. They are aggressive, play well as a unit, and are coached well by Pim Verbeek. They were denied by a resolute Italian team in 2006, with a horrible call for a penalty late in the second half. Four years of pain will definitely ignite these Aussies, who have fire in their belly and the passion to come back and show the world that they will not be denied. I would go as far as to say they can challenge the best in the world for the World Cup.