Australia knocks Saudis out of WCup qualifying

Australia ended Saudi Arabia’s World Cup qualifying campaign

with a burst of three second-half goals in four minutes in a

comeback 4-2 win on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia entered the game in second place in Group D, but

the loss, combined with Oman’s 2-0 win over Thailand, meant it

dropped down to third while Oman progressed to the fourth round of

Asian qualifying. The defeat continues a poor run for the Saudis,

who didn’t qualify for South Africa 2010 and now have been

eliminated at an even earlier stage of qualifying for Brazil

2014.

Australia was already assured of a place in the next stage and

top spot in the group, entering the Melbourne match with a

six-point lead.

Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring for Saudi Arabia in the 19th

minute before Alex Brosque equalized for the hosts in the 43rd.

Nasser Al Shamrani put the visitors back ahead in first-half

stoppage time. However he spurned a good chance in the 72nd minute,

and that was the cue for Australia’s onslaught.

Japan-based Brosque provided the last pass for Harry Kewell’s

left-footed equalizer in the 73rd, making it 2-2.

Brosque scored again in the 75th and Brett Emerton made it 4-2

with a sliding goal a minute later, leaving Saudi Arabia’s coach

Frank Rijkaard shaking his head in disbelief at the sudden reversal

of fortune.

”The equalizer, for us was like it was demoralizing the team,”

Rijkaard said. ”We had less confidence and couldn’t keep on

playing like we wanted.”

Australia captain Lucas Neill, who had a goal disallowed on a

borderline offside decision midway through the second half, praised

his squad for responding positively in the second half and said

they could now focus on the main aim of qualifying for Brazil.

Mark Bresciano had a big influence in midfield in his first

match for Australia since the 2010 World Cup.

”We just showed the character of the Socceroos,” he said,

”always fighting, never giving up.”

Socceroos coach Holger Osieck said the Australians played

excellent football from the hour mark on.

”It was a lot of imagination, creativity, we played the ball

into the channel, there was a lot of mobility and movement and

pace,” he said. ”That is basically the football that I want to

see.”

Lineups:

Australia: Mark Schwarzer; Lucas Neill, Matthew Spiranovic

(David Carney, 82), Jade North, Sasa Ognenovski, Brett Emerton,

Mark Milligan, Harry Kewell, James Troisi (Archie Thompson, 63),

Alex Brosque (Nick Carle, 87), Mark Bresciano.

Saudi Arabia: Waleed Ali; Osama Hawsawi, Abdulla Al Dowsary,

Kamil Al Mousa, Mohammad Al Shalhoub (Naif Hazazi, 79), Nassir Al

Shamrani (Yasser Al Kahtani, 72), Hasan Fallatah, Saud Kariri,

Ahmed Al Fraidi (Ahmed Ateef, 66), Taiseer Al Jasam, Salem Al

Dawsari.