Monday, July 16, 2007

Advance Australia Fair

Rajamangala Stadium
Australia have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup after they defeated Thailand 4-0 at a rain-soaked Rajamangala Stadium.

Coach Graham Arnold rang in the changes ahead of this match, and it was one of the newcomers in Michael Beauchamp who opened the scoring for The Socceroos, heading home his first ever goal for the national team after twenty-one minutes.

Captain Mark Viduka then scored twice, before substitute Harry Kewell added a fourth in stoppage time at the end of the match as Thailand's tired legs gave way.

The scoreline was harsh on the tournament co-hosts, who pushed Australia for eighty minutes of this encounter and who tested Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer on several occasions.

Thai players line up a free-kick
Despite the unflattering scoreline, Thai coach Chanvit Polchovin spoke glowingly of his side, which ultimately finished the group stage level on points with Australia - albeit with an inferior head-to-head record and goal difference.

Polchovin told reporters that he hoped Thailand's performance in the competition would inspire local fans to pay more attention to the domestic scene, with Thai fans well renowned for supporting teams in the English Premier League.

Chanvit Polchovin
A vociferous crowd of 46,000 predominantly Thai fans roared on their team, and Thailand went agonisingly close when Kiatisuk Senamuang only just failed to connect with Suree Sukha's low cross into the penalty area.

By then Thailand were already a goal behind, with 1.FC N├╝rnberg defender Beauchamp having risen highest to head home a Luke Wilkshire free-kick midway through the first half.

It took until ten minutes from time for Australia to make the game safe, with skipper Mark Viduka scoring a tremendous solo goal, taking a cross from substitute Tim Cahill on his chest before twisting passed the Thai defence and picking his moment to fire beyond Kosin Hathairatanakul in the Thai goal.

Just three minutes later Cahill and Viduka combined again, with the Newcastle United striker heading home to take his goal tally for the tournament to three.

Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell - on as a substitute for the final half hour, then sealed proceedings with a goal in stoppage time, gallopping down the right hand side before slotting the ball passed the luckless Kosin.

Australian fans celebrate
Australia's reward is a quarter-final showdown with Japan, just over a year after The Socceroos beat Japan 3-1 at the FIFA World Cup in Germany.

Japan captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi claimed before the tournament that Japan were "burning for revenge," and Japan will have the chance to avenge that defeat when these two old foes clash at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on July 21.

Australia v Iraq

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com


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