Australia has qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil after a nervy 1-0 win over Iraq in Sydney.
Needing a win to guarantee qualification, the Socceroos looked like they might come up short in front of an expectant crowd, before substitute Josh Kennedy headed home an 83rd-minute winner.
Iraq proved staunch opponents and belied its bottom-of-Group-B status with a composed performance in front of 80,523 spectators.
The Socceroos hunted out an early goal and nearly had one inside four minutes when Robbie Kruse and Tim Cahill exchanged passes in the box, before Cahill hit a close range shot at the diving Ahmed Ibrahim.
But Australia failed to fashion any real chances afterwards. Marco Bresciano blazed over the bar from distance before Cahill tried to hook the ball past the goalkeeper under pressure late in the first stanza.
Nerves played a big role in stymieing some of the Socceroos’ second-half play as Iraq exploited quick breaks to keep the host’s defence on its toes.
Coach Holger Osieck looked to change things by bringing on Tom Rogic for the ineffective Brett Holman, and the Celtic midfielder made an instant impact with a host of shots inside his first four minutes on the pitch.
But despite mounting pressure, Iraq held on as Osieck controversially sent on Kennedy for Cahill and Archie Thompson for Robbie Kruse.
With 83 minutes gone and a possible third place finish beckoning in Group B, Bresciano found space to float in a perfectly weighted ball to Kennedy, who nodded into the bottom corner to send the Olympic stadium crowd into ecstasy.
The result secured second place in Group B behind leaders Japan, with both teams progressing to play in Brazil.
Source : abc.net.au