Thursday, June 18, 2009

Australia beat Japan in final World Cup qualifier

Australia beat Japan in final World Cup qualifier.
Australia finished top of Group A in Asian World Cup qualifying after beating Japan 2-1 in front of 69,238 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Tim Cahill was the hero for the Socceroos, scoring twice in the second half after Japan defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka had given his side a half-time lead.

Cahill's strained relations with the Australian media were apparent in a post-match TV interview that saw him offer a series of vague responses to questioning from host broadcaster Fox Sports.

Yet the Everton man remains a hero to Australian fans for his performances on the pitch, and just as in Kaiserslautern three years ago, it was the explosive midfielder who dug the Socceroos out of a hole on a chilly night in Melbourne.

On the back foot early on, it was Japan who gradually began to control proceedings, with full-backs Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida charging forward at every opportunity.

The visitors had enjoyed plenty of first half possession before an in-swinging corner from Kengo Nakamura was headed home by the imposing Marcus Tulio Tanaka five minutes before the interval, as Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer conceded for the first time in the final round of qualifiers.

The half-time break appeared to favour the Australians, and they redoubled their efforts to haul themselves level in the second half.

They eventually did so when midfielder Vince Grella chipped a free-kick forward for Tim Cahill to rise and head home in trademark fashion.

That set the stage for a stirring fightback from the Socceroos, and when enigmatic midfielder Nick Carle swung over a swirling corner, Japan keeper Seigo Narazaki appeared to clatter into his own defence, leaving Cahill unmarked the bundle the ball home at the far post.

Melbourne-born striker Scott McDonald was introduced to a raptuous applause late on, but the Celtic front man was unable to break his duck in a national team jersey.

Nevertheless the win was a particularly pleasing one for Australia coach Pim Verbeek, whose team finished five points ahead of the Japanese in the final round of qualifying.

A satisified Verbeek spoke of the pride he felt for his players, following an arduous qualifying campaign that saw detractors label the Socceroos "boring" after a series of workmen-like performances.

Australia next face off against Ireland in a friendly to be staged in Limerick, while a series of high-profile home friendlies will also be arranged, with the MCG once again set to host Australia's final match before the Socceroos depart for South Africa.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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