Australia booked their ticket to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa with a scoreless draw against a determined Qatar at the Al Sadd Club in Doha on Saturday night.
Needing only a point to officially seal qualification, the Socceroos did what was required against a youthful Qatar side to ensure back-to-back World Cup appearances for the first time. It will be only Australia’s third World Cup after appearances in 1974 and 2006 and they will be joined by Asian rivals Japan and South Korea, who also qualified on Saturday with wins over Uzbekistan and the UAE respectively. “It’s amazing, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” captain Lucas Neill said after the match. “But it’s an unbelievable achievement. “To be the second or third team into the World Cup is truly an honour. “I’m so proud we’ve created some history for the country and we can sit back now and see who’s going to join us.” Tough opposition Qatar proved tougher opposition than they had in three previous losses, but Australia could feel unlucky not to have won after having several efforts saved by Qatari goalkeeper Qasem Burhan. Both sides made a tentative start in front of a small but vocal crowd, with the Socceroos content to keep possession in the hot and humid conditions. Qatar’s star striker Sebastian Soria Quintana looked the most likely and had several chances before the Socceroos muscled their way on top. Tim Cahill struck the post with a spectacular bicycle kick in the the 27th minute, but it’s unlikely the goal would have stood anyway with the referee calling a foul. Josh Kennedy impressed in a lone striking role while Harry Kewell became increasingly menacing after switching to the right wing, going close to scoring himself before creating another move which led to Vince Grella firing a volley just over the bar in the 33rd minute. Australia stepped up their game early in the second half with a flash of chances within a 10-minute period. Defender Chris Coyne, who had his shot cleared off the line after attempting to turn in a headed Cahill effort. Cahill Australia’s best Australia’s best Cahill was denied another stunner when his powerful drive was brilliantly saved in the 57th minute by Burhan. Burhan was called into action again to tip over a Kennedy shot from out wide and once more in the 63rd minute when Kewell hit a rocket with his right foot. The Socceroos looked increasingly threatening but did not get the goal they perhaps deserved. In the end it didn’t matter, with Pim Verbeek’s men clinching qualification with two matches to go, Bahrain in Sydney on Wednesday and Japan in Melbourne a week later, and without conceding a goal in six. “It’s a bit strange, you don’t really have the feeling that you qualified for the World Cup, that feeling will come in the coming days,” Verbeek said. “The boys are feeling fantastic, I think they did a great job, very professional job. “It was not an easy job today. I think Qatar made it very difficult for us.” Neill will miss the Bahrain game after picking up what he admitted was a “tactical” yellow card with a tackle on Quintana late in the game. “I left it as late as a could,” he said. “It was probably a borderline orange but I want to play the Japan game and the only way to do that was to make sure I miss the Bahrain game.”