Australia have booked their place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a 1-0 victory over Iraq earlier today.
The goal came from substitute Josh Kennedy, on for Socceroos legend Tim Cahill, in the 83rd minute. The ball came to winger Mark Bresciano on the right side and the 33 year old made it to the edge of the box before delicately floating a chip into the center of the area. Kennedy’s run put him at the penalty spot where he snapped the header into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The goal provided a dramatic escape for Australia, who needed to thwart a plucky Iraqi side on a few occasions throughout the second half. Many questioned manager Holger Osieck’s decision to take off Cahill during such a crucial part of the match. Cahill himself was dejected to come out of the match, at first pretending not to see the substitutes board before finally accepting his fate and slowly trudging off the pitch.
While the victory was not the dominant performance that many were expecting, Osieck was careful to pay tribute to Iraq and overjoyed that his squad grinded out the result. “It was a very tough qualifying campaign but we made it happen over the last three games,” said Osieck. “I’m simply happy for the boys and the fans. It was a tricky game, they are tough to play.”
Osieck’s decision to insert Kennedy proved to be a stroke of genius by Osieck. The 30 year old has been a peripheral figure throughout this World Cup campaign, but came up big when it counted. And while the Nagoya Grampus striker is the hero who put his side through to Brazil, substantial credit must be heaped on Bresciano for such an inventive cross.
It was eight years ago that Bresciano once again came to his country’s aid by scoring a huge goal that helped Australia knock off Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup finals. Down 1-0 after the first leg in Montevideo, Bresciano’s goal leveled the aggregate a 1-1, triggering a penalty shootout that the Socceroos won 4-2.
Today’s victory puts Australia in the World Cup finals for the third successive time. They’ll head to Brazil with what will be one of the oldest squads in the tournament as many players are over the age of 30, including goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (40), captain Lucas Neill (35), Cahill (33) and Bresciano (33).
Australia join Brazil and Japan as nations that already have booked their place in next summer’s World Cup.