The Australian Socceroos qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil last night by defeating Iraq 1-0 in Sydney.
The Green and Gold made it hard for themselves leading up to the final round of Group B with disappointing results, which meant only a win would see them progress in the tournament.
Australia were lucky not to go ahead inside the first 5 minutes with pleasant passing between Tim Cahill and Robbie Kruse resulted in a close range shot from Cahill. The shot was sensationally palmed away by the diving efforts of Ahmed Ibrahim wearing the gloves for Iraq.
The game was played at a frantic pace from the get-go with structural plans nonexistent as the ball went from end to end, neither team dominating possession.
The visitors were putting up a great fight considering they stood at the bottom of the group and this looked to unsettle the Socceroos who struggled to execute their game plan.
Most of the 80,523 supporters at ANZ Stadium were suffering from nerves as the teams went to the halftime break at 0 – 0, a break that Socceroos Manager Holger Osieck would have been desperate to commence to have words with his team.
Nerves were quite evident for the Australians in the second half and the visitors were actually causing a few ‘deep breath’ moments for the home supporters with their attacking plays.
Holger Osieck had to make a big call to change the tempo and did so by taking off Brett Holman, whose performance was well below par.
Tom Rogic, who signed with Celtic FC in Scotland’s domestic league last season, replaced Holman with immediate effect. Within the first 5 minutes of taking to the pitch he posted 3 shots at goal.
As Australia were mounting pressure Osieck surprised everyone by replacing Tim Cahill, who was obviously confused and disgruntled by the decision, for Josh Kennedy. Even the home crowd made their opinions heard with boisterous bellows of “BOOO”’s around the stadium. Playmaker Robbie Kruse was also substituted for Archie Thompson in another surprise move.
Osieck’s unpopular gamble with the fate of the Socceroos future turned out to be a masterstroke as Josh Kennedy headed home the winning goal with only 7 minutes remaining on the clock.
Marco Bresciano found slight open space on the right corner of the 18-yard box and whipped in a cross to Kennedy, who was in open space of his own.
Kennedy made no mistake of the headed shot at goal with a textbook downward header into the bottom right corner and Australia lifted as one with wild celebrations.
The 1 – 0 result consolidated second spot in Group B behind Japan, who qualified for the finals the round before.
Australia are off to the World Cup Finals in Brazil!